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The Changing Role of Trade Unions

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The role of trade unions in an organization has been changed drastically over the years. The emergence of trade unions in different countries all over the world was a requirement of the time. Still in many countries like India and China, trade unions play an important role in protecting the interests of employees. But it is a fact that in many other developed countries such as U.S and Australia, the relevance of trade unions is showing a gradual decline. One of the major reasons for this decline is the changes in workplace that have been effected by the modern enlightened employers. In this paper, the relevance of trade unions in the past century is examined. Also it tries to discuss what changes have occurred in the modern work place that reduced the relevancy of trade unions.

Trade unions are organizations of workers that stand for the interests of their members within the workplace. They are bonded together to strive for a set of common objectives such as working hours, wages , working conditions and any other labor-management relations within the workplace. There are specific labor unions to represent workers employed in the different trades and professions. Communications workers, health care professionals, banking or insurance professionals, stage and theatrical employees, and employees in the hospitality industry etc. are having their own distinct labor unions. They represent workers at individual work sites.

The fundamental function of a trade union is to represent people at work. They had a major role in protecting the interests of the employees. The presence of a strong and accepted trade union had been a requirement to industrial peace in the last century. Trade unions had an important role in effective communication between the workers and the management. Unions helped in decision making in favor of the employees through the procedure of mutual bargaining and negotiations between employer and unions. This role of the union was particularly a necessity in some countries, where employers treated their employees in an unfair manner when they were not united. The differences of opinions between management and work force would soon turn into major conflicts with out the involvement of unions. Unions offered timely advice and support to alleviate conflicts for the benefit of both sides. After the emergence of trade unions in different parts of the world, they extended their functions to educate their members on a wide range of matters. The last century witnessed many positive aspects of union functioning. They offered a healthy and safe working environment for the work force.

The functions of trade unions helped not only the employees, the employers also benefited from the union activity. They hastenedthe economic development by helping in the recruitment and selection of workers, byinstructing discipline among the workforce, by facilitating settlement of industrial disputes in a sensible manner and byassisting social adjustments. Workers have to adjust themselves to the new working conditions and to the new rules and policies. Diverse, disorganized, unsatisfied and frustrated workforce coming from different backgrounds may cause problems in the organization unless they are united. Unions helped themto adjust with the needs of the organization for the benefit of both employees and employers.

It is obvious that the relationship between employer and employee needs to be a fair one in the interests of both parties. The unfair practice of either party can lead to disaster for a business. When an employer is unwilling to pay a reasonable wage or is reluctant to treat workers properly it will create a workforce with low morale. They will go far behind their potential and will give a poor output. So it is vital that employers and employees work together to agree what is fair. Unions have a key role to play in ensuring such an agreement. Trade unions giveits members greater power to make bargains and increase their self-esteem. Over the years, since their emergence unions developed two main roles which are representation and protection. Unions of the past century worked hard to establish workers' legal rights and to protect employees from unfair practices such as long hours, low pay and dangerous working conditions. They could also establish a healthydivision between work and leisure which is known as work-life balance. Employee's benefits like holiday entitlements, maternity and paternity leave and pensions are the credits of union activity in many countries.

In the modern world and in the modern work place, employee - employer relationship has changed a lot. The work place competition is Increasing and 'competition' is the word both employees and employers are reciting. Competition coming from many directions continues to change employee and employer perceptions about performance potentials, salary, working hours and



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