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Trade Union is defined in the Employment Relations Act 2008 (Appendix 1) as "an association of persons, whether registered or not, having as one of its objects the regulation of employment relations between workers and employers"
The Trade Union or Labour Union movement is a continuous and voluntary association whose membership comprises of salary earners, employees and union leaders. Those members have bonded together motivated by a simple motto "Unity makes strength". Workers will therefore utilise trade unions as their representative voice when dealing with employers or on the board of directions.
Independently, the workers do not bear the power to defy the top management. Therefore they grouped and seek to institute their terms and conditions of employments. When they realised that negotiating as an individual, the manager would be more powerful, due to the fact that an individual would not matter as much a group in regard of running an organisation.
According to Cunnison, "Trade Union is a monopolistic combination of wage earners who stand to the employers in a relation of dependence for the sale of their labour and even for the production, and that the general purpose of the association in view of that dependence is to strengthen their power to bargain with the employers"
The main role of trade union is to ensure the welfare of its members such as safeguarding the interests of its members, protecting the reliability of its trade, achieving higher wages by securing economic benefits. It also optimises the working conditions at the workplace and guarantees a job security while protecting members against unfair dismissal at workplace.
Through its leadership, trade union engages in collective bargaining, whereby labour contracts are negotiated with the employers. Also it acts as a recruiting manager, the Union leaders interfere with the recruitment and selection of the company, its intention is to maximise the number of employees an employer can hire.
2.2 Hierarchy of Trade Unions
There is a hierarchy in Unions, we had identified; the confederation, the federations and the trade unions. Regarding the confederation, there are one main which is Mauritius Labour Congress and it is affiliated to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).In the category of federation there are; National Trade Union Confederation (NTUC) which is affiliated with the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the Mauritius Trade Union Congress (MTUC). Finally, the trade unions which are affiliated to the NTUC; The Federation of Civil Service Unions, Federation of Progressive Unions, Federation des Travailleurs Unis, Confederation Mauriciennes des Travailleurs, General Workers Federation and Federation of Free Workers.
2.3 Structure of Trade Union
The trade unions structure is divided into several parts, namely:
The Annual Delegates Congress
It is the authority which governs the federation.
The Executive Council
It comprises of one representative of each affiliates which is usually the secretary or the president and the Bureau members and two observers per affiliates. Once every two months they conduct meeting regarding applications for affiliates from trade unions and affiliation of the Federation to any local, regional or international organisation promoting the interest of the workers and to discuss disagreements between different affiliates. Meeting can be scheduled on the demand of the President or the Bureau or of the members of the Executive Council too.
It comprises of the President, the General Secretary and the eight elected members. Among them, one is the 1st Vice president and another is the 2nd vice president, a 3rd as Assistant Treasurer and a fourth one who is the organising secretary.
He represents the Federation and he is the spokesman of the federation.
The General Secretary arranges meetings and draw up the minutes of the meeting. Along with the General Secretary, Deputy General Secretary and the Assistant General make up the Secretariat of Federation.
He is in charge of the accounts of the federation.
He is in charge of organising events like training sessions, seminars, workshop among others.
Public Relation Officer
He deals with the media for conferences, coverage, reports and other information that will be published by the media.
2.4 Nature and Scope of Trade Union
The existence of an influential and recognised trade union is a pre-requisite to the industrial development pace of the country. With modernization in different sectors and the formation of new one such as the technological one as well as the tourism sector, human resources were required. However, mistreatment of the Mauritian labour force appears. This is where the trade union emerged; they ensured that the human rights of their members are respect as per the laws and the constitution.
Trade Unions are currently considered as a sub-system which attends a precise sub-groups interest. When defending a particular sector they consider themselves as an integral part of the organisation in respect to the feasibility, growth and development of the community of which they formed part of.
The influence of Trade Unions is of key importance for their members in the following ways:
First, they are more effective and efficient when the need of negotiation is required between employers and employees by attempting to create a win-win situation.
They facilitate the flow of communication between workers and the management, by providing the guidance and support to both of them.
The Union leaders will seek a health and safety in the working environment.
In addition, they also act as an educational institution; they provide different types of courses to their members.
They also accelerate the pace of economic development for instance; they act as a recruiting and selecting agent for the unemployed workers, managing conflicts in the organisation, inculcating corporate social responsibilities to the members among others.
2.5 Objectives of trade unions.
The main body of a trade union usually consists of individual workers, sometimes professionals and past workers. Their primary aim is to ensure that the employment conditions of employees are respected and that fair working conditions are offered. However, trade unions also engage in issues like:
Information and advice
One of the main targets of trade unions is to negotiate with employers about the matters affecting their members and other employees at work. If a union is formally recognised by an employer, it can negotiate with the employer over terms and conditions. These negotiations are commonly known as 'collective bargaining'.
Any trade union works to protect and advance the interests of its members. One of the ways it achieves this is by collectively bargaining with employers about the pay and conditions under which its members work. The negotiation process normally deals with matters such as working rules and regulations, complaint procedures, hiring principle, dismissing or promoting employees, workplace safety and policies etc. Some trade unions even have the power to negotiate rates of pay, bonuses for target achievement, employment conditions and job descriptions on behalf of the employees. For collective bargaining to be effective, unions and employers need to agree on how the arrangement is to operate. The objective of that collective bargaining or negotiation process is to settle with a mutual agreement also known as 'collective agreement' between the management and the trade union.
Employees and other workers have the right to be accompanied at a disciplinary or grievance hearing. They can either choose a co-worker or a union representative. Often, the union representative, will be a workplace representative who is also a co-worker and will support the employee on the board meeting.
Information and Advice
If someone forms part of a union he/she can also ask them for advice. Unions are experts at solving problems at work. Trade unions provide staff with information, advice and guidance about any work related problems.
Trade unions provide its members with a variety of services such as training, insurance, financial assistance and legal advices, sickness benefits, education facilities in some cases, guarantee of satisfactory work conditions in areas such as health and safety as well as equal opportunities.
Voice in decision affecting Workers
Trade unions act as a "spokesperson" for the staff. When matters concerning an individual employee or a group of workers arise, the trade unions job is to voice out the problem in order to negotiate for a solution. In case no agreement is settled or respected, the trade union members may enforce strikes or resistance to lockouts. They can also intervene in order to resist schemes of the management which reduce employment, e.g. restructuring and automation
2.6 Types of Trade Union
Craft or Occupation Union.
This type of union was the earliest type developed, it comprised of employees of a particular craft or skill regardless of place of work. The advantage of craft unionism is the sense of solidarity, as there is a feeling of common interest between the members. In addition, as this union bears skilled workers, they have a good economic position for collective bargaining. On the other side, more and more new mechanical devices were being developed, the need for large numbers of skilled workers decreased.
One- Shop Union or House Union
The one-shop union organizes all workers in the same establishment or factory. This type of union has the advantage of being relatively easy to organize because all workers share a common goal in securing a good collective agreement for their particular factory. However, as it is small, it has little bargaining power and it is easily dominated by management.
Common Employer Union.
2.7 Characteristic of Trade Union
Trade unions have shown remarkable progress since their inception in Mauritius and as the union is an essential and dynamic aspect of the society it bears special characteristics such as:
Trade Union come together for common goals and interest
The members have some materials of collective interest such as improving working conditions, better wages, benefits, job security among others. The trade unions have the right to contest a managerial decision, if they considered that their members are at risk with the outcome.
Trade Union is an association of workers and salary earners:
Unions are essentially a cooperative labour marketing association whose aim is to safeguard human rights on one or more labour market. In addition, they also bear a hand in the progress of the society, cultural interest and political views of its members.
Trade unions have been implemented so as each sector of the working class bear a specific union. Mauritius therefore bears different Union association such as:
Agricultural Research & Extension Unit (AREU)
Mauritius Labour Congress (MLC)
Mauritius Trade Union Congress (MTUC)
National Trade Union Confederation (NTUC)
Trade Unions are basically voluntary organizations:
Members of any trade union are voluntary in nature. They are completely free to become a member of a Trade Union or not; none is constrained to subscribe to a Trade Union. If any individual is forced to join a Union, the very essence of trade of trade unionism is defeated.
Unions are egalitarian bodies:
The Unions are self-governed; this is the reason why they can effectively act in our society. The union leaders are voted by the members and perform as per the Trade Union Act.
The Trade Union is a continuous association
Union is not a daily affair. In order to work effectively for their adherents they ask a long term membership
Constant evolution in the characteristic of Trade Union
With this dynamic era, the union continually update their techniques and amend their work. With new complications in the workplace, the unions need to find infinite approaches so as to serve the union members.
Rapport with the Management:
The unions have the responsibility to improve the employers and employees relationship. They go through the process of negotiation and collective bargaining with the direction of the members' organisation concerning their problems. In so doing, the employer and employee relationship is enriched and enhance the quality and welfare of the employees.
2.8 Functions of Trade Unions
Broadly speaking, trade unions perform two types of functions:
Amongst the various activities performed by trade unions is the betterment of the position of their members in relation to their employment. The aim of such activities is to ensure that all the clauses of the hiring and psychological contract are respected. When the union fails to accomplish these aims through collective bargaining and negotiation, in extreme conditions they adopt drastic measures in the form of go-slow, strike, boycott, work sabotage etc. to make the management react and reconsider their requests. Hence, these functions of the trade unions are known as militant or fighting functions.
Another actions performed by trade unions are to provide help to its members in needy times, and improving their efficiency. Trade unions try to nurture a spirit of cooperation, mutual aid and promote friendly relationships and sharing of knowledge and culture among their colleagues. In some cases, they also arrange for legal assistance. Besides, these, they undertake many welfare measures for their members, e.g., school for the education of children, library, reading-rooms, in-door and out-door games, and other recreational facilities. These activities, which may be called fraternal functions, obviously depend on the availability of funds, which the unions raise by subscription from members and donations from outsiders, and also on their competent and enlightened leadership. Another broad classification of the functions of unions may be as follows:
Intra-mural activities: These deals with whatever happens on the site of work and has direct impact on employees e.g. wages, strikesâ€¦
Extra-mural activities: These activities help the employees to maintain and improve their efficiency or productivity e.g., methods intended to foster a spirit of cooperation, promote friendly relationsâ€¦
Political activities: Modern trade unions also take up political activities to achieve their objectives. Such activities may be related to the formation of a political party or those reflecting an attempt to seek influence on public policy relating to matters connected with the interests of working class
Trade unions have a number of functions, one more important than the other depending on the situations; however the five main general principles developed have been:
The service function
The representative function
The regulatory function
The government function
The public administration function
The service function
This involves the delivery of services and assistance to the union members.
The representative function
This implies that the trade union will act like a delegate for the members at the workplace.
The regulatory function
This enables trade unions to actively participate in rule-making over the workplace. This can be done either:
directly - multi-employer collective bargaining e.g. through the Joint Industrial Council
indirectly - through regulatory legislation
The government and public administration function
Trade unions engage with the government to assure that they can accomplish their respective function within the law.
Trade unions also play an important role in:
improving bottom-up communication in order to increase commitment of employees in meeting the organization's objectives
negotiating improvements to pay and working conditions to retain the people
encouraging companies to invest in training and development for better performance and personal as well as professional development of employees
acting as a positive change agent thus gaining employees' support for the smooth running of the organization
Protecting the interests of employees by taking active participation in the management.
safeguarding organizational stability, growth, and leadership