Trade Union Increasing Of Their Membership Commerce Essay


It is believed that employee relation is a relevant management activity if the organisation deals with trade unions. As Gennard and Judge (2005) explained in their book, trade unions are organised group of employees who consist wholly or mainly of workers of one or more description and whose principal purposes include the regulation of relations between workers and employers. "The primary purpose of trade unions is to protect and enhance the living standards of their members." (Gennard and Judge, 2005) To achieve this objective, there are two main methods - industrial and political. Industrial methods include the negotiation of agreements with employers and all that belongs to collective bargaining, grievance procedure, industrial action, use of third-party intervention, joint consultation. Political methods cover all types of union participation in the political process, including pressure group activities in relation to the UK government and the EU decision making bodies.

Trade unions which traced from the eighteenth century have developed into a number of forms, influenced by differing political adjectives and activities of trade unions vary, but may include: provision of benefits to members, collective bargaining, industrial action and political activity. Although trade unions bring about lots of benefits to their members, there is a decline in trade union membership. This paper will discuss the question how trade unions can increase their membership. The questions will be answered from four aspects. It will be organise as follow: first it will talk about the partnership, second is the policy specifically to attract younger members, third is organising model, and last is the investment in exploring new information-based technology and communication systems. Also a conclusion will be writing at the last of this paper.


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Blair declared partnerships to be 'an essential part of developing a modern workplace that can produce goods and services of quality. It is part of the answer to the quest for economic success' (Brown et al, 2001) Heery (2002) mentioned that 'social partnership' is an imprecise term and in Britain carries a number of meanings and refers to a range of union activities. At European level, it can refer to union involvement in European Social Dialogue and the negotiation of framework agreements. At state level, it can refer to attempts to position the TUC as an authoritative partner in economic and social management. At economy level, it can refer to attempts to revive multi-employer collective bargaining. At company level, it can refer to the negotiation of distinctive partnership agreements between unions and management, which are intended to promote a new and more co-operative set of relations within the firm.

Partnership agreements may reflect an exclusive principle of representation; they provide an element of security for union members in relatively good jobs through a policy of deliberate insecurity for others who are less likely to be unionised. Partnership above the level of the company may 'be oriented towards the broad regulation of the labour market, partnership agreements focus very much on the immediate employment-centred interests of union members'. (Heery, 2002) These partnership agreements seek to address interests which have often been neglected by unions in the past. They have common feature like worker entitlement to training and development. Indeed, the Return to Learn partnership concluded by unison with public and voluntary sector employers are confined solely to issue of personal development (Munro and Rainbird, 2000). Partnership agreements seek to cultivate shared interests with employers and take the form of 'productivity coalition' (Windolf, 1989), in which security, development and involvement ideally are exchanged for worker commitment and flexibility. Partnership brings many benefits such as training and development, and also makes the worker more flexible that employers and employees working under the voluntary rather than law.

Partnership is built on principles and practices of shared commitment between the organisation and the people who work there.  Partnership has brought benefits including greater disclosure of information, greater influence, inter-union co-operation and more local decision-making. It provides the opportunity for worker get training and develop their personal skills, increase workers' involvement. In a word, there is a big potential of a move towards greater partnership with employers as a way of increasing trade union membership.

Attract younger members

Throughout Western Europe, trade union membership is declining. The average age of trade unionists is rising, and difference between trade unionists and young workers in perception, culture and identity are widening. If trade unions are tending to reverse the membership decline sustained since 1979, more young workers must be recruited. Sustained membership growth in trade union is facing two major challenges. The first challenge is to adapt their strategies and structures to the rapid growth and diversity of service-sector employment. The second challenge is demographic. Union membership in western industrial nations is ageing and tends to be concentrated in declining or slow-growth sector. As a result, it is vital that unions invent effective ways to recruit the next generation of workers. (Weil, 1994)

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A review of unionisation among young people in Western European showed that rates of unionisation among young people are lower than among their older counterparts and that the rate of unionisation for young people is declining more steeply than among older workers (Serrano Pascual and Waddington, 2000). It is argued that young workers' attitudes towards trade unions are influenced by aspects as follow. First, family networks influence the unionisation of young workers. Young trade unionists were more likely to have parents who were, or had been, trade unionists. Second is the influence of some workplace characteristics and job histories on union membership. Young workers who often change employment rather than accumulate a stock of grievances in a single post are less likely to unionise (Waddington and Kerr, 2002).

There are some actions can be introduced by trade unions to stem the sharp decline in unionisation among young people. First, reduce subscription rates for young trade unionists. In order to encourage higher rates of participation in union affairs and to foster contributions from young members on the development of union policy, many unions have set up youth or student sections. Second, launch campaigns on university campuses in an attempt to attract into membership students employed in 'McJobs', which is low pay, insecurity, unsocial hours and an absence of holiday or sick pay. Third, establish a presence at music festivals and similar events central to the culture of young people, to engage with potential young members. Fourth, establish the Organising Academy to train young people to recruit, amongst others, young workers, with the specific brief to extend union organisation into private-sector services.

Organising model

The trade union density is described as a product of five forces: macro-economic context, workforce composition, state policy, management strategy, and the recruitment activity of trade unions themselves (Metcalf, 1991). It is also argued that the fall in trade union membership was caused by inadequate investment or deficiencies in union recruitment activity - much union recruitment has been unsystematic and reactive (Heery, 2000) (Kelly and Heery, 1994). While there is evidence of UK unions making an increased effort to recruit and organise new members, which has been informed by the organising model since the mid 1990s. (Heery, 2002)

The concept of an 'organising model' or 'organising approach' is imprecise and embraces a number of principles and practise (Bronfenbrenner, 1998). Organising model tends to be used in two overlapping senses: "First, it can refer to a model of union good practice which contributes to membership growth by re-building or extending organization at workplace level". "Second, it represents an attempt to rediscover the 'social movement' origins of labour, essentially by redefining the union as a mobilizing structure which seeks to simulate activism among its members and generate campaigns for workplace and wider social justice" (Heery et al, 2000).

Organising model includes some practices such as: reliance on targeted and planned organizing campaigns; the use of mapping techniques to research the target workforce and identify those likely to join; reliance on face-on-face recruitment, often in people's homes and using like-to-like recruiters (Heery et al, 2000). Organising means the empowerment of workers, workers can resolve their own problems without recourse to external representation. The increasing investment by unions in organising leads to a recovery of union membership.

Investment in technology and communication systems

The union has invested little time or money in exploring new information-based technology and communication systems. The low cost of information, communication, and interaction on the web offers trade unions opportunities to improve services and attract members. The internet is the twenty-first century's mode of mass communication, the logistic growth curve for internet usage making the internet one of the most rapidly adopted innovations ever.

The use of web for workers and union members are very universal. It is believed that if unionists were not making extensive use of the internet, any study of the role of internet in the future of unions would be speculative or at least be limited to its impact. On the contrary, if unionists make wide use of the internet, then it has greater potential for the future of unions broadly. The internet offers unions some areas of opportunity: first, to present the union case various issues to the online population through provision of information; second, to communicate directly with union members or potential members through targeted electronic messages; third, to engage in interactive discourse with members or others by responding to queries and by online discussion forums.

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The uses of web by union members offer the opportunities for unions to use the new technology to improve their services to members and possibly attract new members, especially those young people. Because of younger union members are more likely to access the internet than older union members. The internet is also an inexpensive medium for communication. E-mails can be sent free to all members of the organization as well as one person to another. It makes union members easier to share information. Overall, by invest in technology and communication system such as internet and E-mail, unions can improve services to members and attract new members.


In conclude, the purpose of this paper is to discussed the question how trade unions can increase their membership. It answered the question from four sides were partnership, attract young members, organising model, and investment in technology and communication system. By looking at partnership, it is obvious that partnership has brought benefits including greater disclosure of information, greater influence, inter-union co-operation and more local decision-making. It is an effective way to recruit the next generation of workers for increase the membership of trade unions. Organising model had a success inform in unions making an increased effort to recruit and organise new members. It contributes to membership growth by re-building or extending organization. The last method to increase the membership of trade union is to investment in technology and communication system such as internet and e-mail in order to achieve the object of attract new members.