What You Should Know Before Joining a Union

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By John Wick

There are many pitfalls when navigating your way around in the workplace, right? Many instances have been recorded where workers rights were violated with no consequences to the employer. This happens often where workers aren’t unionised because unions fight for employee rights.

Joining a union can offer some protection but that doesn’t mean they have absolute power. Both the employer and employee have certain rights and responsibilities to honour. There are unions in every industry to ensure fair labour practices are adhered to everywhere. The Queensland Police Union for instance vigorously advocates for their member’s welfare and so do unions in other corporations.

Let’s look at the key points you should know before joining any union.

How Unions Started

It was the industrial revolution in the eighteenth century that spurred the formation of unions in Europe. That same structure spilt over to the rest of the world. Because so many new workers were being brought into the workplace a need for representation in the workplace became a necessity.

The structure of unions is more or less the same across the world and a unionised workforce has become part of the working culture. The essence of any union is to advance workers welfare and fight for their rights if it’s violated in any way.

How Unions are Formed

Think of unions as a small democracy within a bigger democratic framework. Unions hold elections to vote for representatives who will make decisions on behalf of workers. In certain sectors, a union might allow workers from different sectors to join and employees from different companies. Here’s how the formation of a union starts:

  • It starts with a bargaining group that is responsible for dealing with the employer
  • Employers can persuade workers not to join the union, but they can’t prevent them from doing so because that’s illegal
  • The employer must lawfully bargain with the union in good faith although they aren’t forced to agree to any terms
  • An employer has no right to change any details on a signed agreement without the union’s representative agreeing to the changes

Workers Unions Represent?

Being represented by a union can expand across any industry. Here are some prime examples of who unions represent but keep in mind there are many more:

  • Engineers
  • Nurses
  • Aviation workers
  • Mechanics
  • Plumbers
  • Police Officers
  • Office Workers
  • Musicians
  • Actors
  • Government workers

Cons of Joining a Union

There’s a downside to almost everything in life and unions aren’t excluded from this fact. Here are some disadvantages you should be aware of before joining a union:

  • Representation by the union doesn’t come free of charge, you’re responsible for paying union fees continuously as a member
  • Unions can create a disruptive culture in a company by creating divisions between the employer and the employee which can hurt the company in the long run
  • The power of a union lies in their numbers and operating as a collective which could work against you as an individual if your wishes don’t align with the unions
  • Unions don’t encourage individualism and your voice can get lost in the group mentality which is the norm in unions
  • Because unions negotiate higher wages for their members some companies might recoup that money by increasing prices. This can lead the company to lose customers

Pros of Joining a Union

It’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of belonging to a union so that you can make an informed decision. Let’s start with some of the most important benefits:

  • Unions protect your rights and will scrutinise your employment contracts so that you don’t suddenly get fired by your employer
  • If you don’t belong to a union, you’re responsible for negotiating your remuneration and benefits whereas unions use their collective bargaining power to negotiate better rates
  • Unions advocate for employee welfare and they ensure you have job security
  • They also handle any grievances lodged against you and ensure a fair & just process is followed if you’re faced with any disciplinary action
  • Unions make sure that you get better retirement benefits compared to your non-unionised co-workers

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve taken in all this information are you still undecided on whether to join the union or not? If you’re still unsure perhaps a consultation with your union representative in your workplace will help clear out any confusion.

The bottom line remains, as a worker you need protection in the workplace, so either you join a union or familiarise yourself with all the labour laws to be able to represent yourself well. Ensuring fair and safe practices is at the heart of advocating workers’ rights & that should be valued. Call your representative today and find out what your union can do for you.