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The Role of Trade Unions in the 19th Century

In 19th Century, trade unions played important role in the industry of United Kingdom, and it also contributes in the industrial development of the country. Need of trade unions in 19th century was essential because rapid expansion of industries result in addition of woman, children, and immigrants in the work force in large numbers. Pool of unskilled and semiskilled workers later organized themselves in the group and these groups play important role in the development of the trade union.

Now a day, workers are considered as very important part of the organization who contributes in the development of the organization, and now employees formed trade unions for the purpose of protecting their interest. Generally, employers try to resolve the issue through communication and best possible way, and trade unions are mainly use for the purpose of negotiating the salary, working hours, safety standards and benefits, and both employer and employee get benefit from the presence of trade unions such as better wages and working conditions result in higher productivity which provides benefit to both employer and employee.

Now, situations have been changed and employer is aware about their duties. In other words, now employer has knowledge about the labor law and avoids breaking the law. Employer also knows the methods through which employees get motivated and this is beneficial for both employer and employee. All these situations reduce the need of trade unions and they also upset the actions based on productivity. Trade unions mainly focus on the benefits and rewards and come in a way of increasing investment. In present environment, employers are ethical, respect the rights of stakeholders, and motivate the employees in work harder, and in this environment rigid thinking of trade union creates issue which makes union unnecessary.  

This paper answers the question whether trade unions needed with the modern employers or it become unnecessary. In other words, are trade unions outmoded and unnecessary in present employment situation? Lastly, paper is concluded with brief conclusion.

Almost hundred years ago, trade unions were considered as an important part of the organization, because workers in the organization were exploited and treated badly. At that time very low wages were paid to the workers for longer working hours and no benefits existed for the workers. At that time, trade union becomes voice of the workers and deals with the grievances of the employees. A trade union fights for the essential rights of the workers and ensures fair wages for the employees and also reduced the unfair treatment with the employees. At this time, employment laws are discriminatory in nature and owners of the business treat their workers as objects and use them to make the best. Even, employers stated that various benefits arrived from the trade unions. As it becomes easy for employer to discuss the issues with the leader and conclude the result of discussion. Additionally, if employees get fair wages and feel protected by trade union then employees work efficiently and effectively which automatically increase the productivity of the organization. On the other side, employers also feel protected while dealing with the unions because it saves the employers from wild cat strikes unexpected picketing and overtime bans.

Changing Perspectives of Employers towards Workers Rights

However, all these situations arise 100 years ago but now situations of industry and perspectives of employers have been completely changed. Now awareness of employers reduces the need of trade unions. Employers are bind from the new laws and regulations related to the employment which has been introduced by the government and in case of employers fail to comply with the laws and regulations then employers face severe consequences. Attitude of the employers towards the workers has been changed because now employers want to attract, train, and retain the best workers and this also reduces the need of trade unions. At similar time, trade unions drive up the wages which result in unemployment. Trade unions drive up the wages well above the market equilibrium by giving the threat of strikes and trade unions only address the need of their members and ignore the employment scenario in whole. Strikes conducted by trade unions results in increase in the cost of the company and generally drive business into losses ad liquidation. In present time, employers are aware and they do not exploit the employees and workers of the organization. Rather, they try to retain the best workers by offering attractive wages and benefits to the workers, which means situation which exits 100 years ago does not exist now. Rights of the employees are now protected by the labor law and employment law of the country which help the employees in getting their legitimate rights. This can be understood through case law Holmes v Greater Glasgow Health Board UKEATS/0045/11/BI. In this case, claimant fell sick from 2004 and made claim against the employer that employer only pay him wages till the period of 2005 and does not pay anything after that period.  Claimant filed claim of unlawful deduction from wages. In this case, Court upheld the appeal of the claimant. This makes it clear that now employers can access judiciary bodies to protect their rights which reduce the need of trade unions (Dorey, 1995; Rusell, n.d.).

On the other side trade unions carried unnecessary activities and abuse the power in their hand against the employer and organization. This can be understood through case law Azam v Ofqual KEAT/0407/14/JOJ. In this case, claimant file appeal that respondent unfairly dismissed the claimant on the ground that claimant distributes confidential information, but in actual claimant was dismissed because of the trade activities. This appeal was dismissed by the Court.

On the other side, unions drive up the wages on unnecessary grounds. This activity of trade union adversely affects the organization in two ways such as it increase the cost of the firm which makes the firm less competitive and result in loose of the market share of the firm. On the other hand, those firms which are able to increase their prices and pass the cost to the consumers directly contributes in the inflation and results in reduction of the real wages. In every case workers will suffered (Kirton& Greene 2005).

There are number of grounds which proved that now a day’s employer become more responsible towards the employees and workers. The first reason behind this is the introduction of employment and labor laws which governed the issues like regulated wages and working hours. In UK various statutes are introduced by the government which cover almost all the aspects of worker life such as Equal Pay Act 1970, Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974, Sex Discrimination Act 1975, Race Relations Act 1976, Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992, Disability Discrimination Act 1995, Employment Tribunals Act 1996, Employment Rights Act 1996, Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, Data Protection Act 1998, National Minimum Wage Act 1998, Human Rights Act 1998, Employment Relations Act 1999, Employment Act 2002, Employment Relations Act 2004, Disability Discrimination Act 2005. Currently, employer is responsible to complied with the provisions of Occupational Safety and Health Act and this responsibility increases in case of dangerous activities (Rusell, n.d.; Rowbotton, 2007).

Impact of Labor Laws and Regulations on Trade Unions

Almost every aspect of workers life is covered by the statutes which are actually addressed by the union 100 years ago, and these statutes provide strong law for the purpose of protecting the rights of the workers. On the other side, number of agencies and bodies are introduced by the government which ensures that laws framed by the government are implemented in proper and adequate manner. It must be noted that labor laws are advanced in nature and protect the rights of workers in more comprehensive manner which was imagined by trade unions 100 years ago (Kirby, 2015).

Another source of employee responsibility is the fact that employer realize that employees are the stakeholders in the company, and it is the duty of the company to protect the legitimate rights of the employees. Employees are aware about their corporate governance in place, and they are aware about their rights at the time when they are hired such as time off from work, fair wages, and rights to get protected against workplace discrimination. In fact, now both employer and employee know about the rights of employees introduced by government and they take enough steps on their own for the purpose of protecting the rights of the employees. Employers compete on who pay higher salaries, who provides the best benefits to the employees, and who protect the rights of employees in better way, etc.. On one side, employers protect the rights of employees because they want to comply with the law introduced by government and on other side they want to meet the expectation of corporate governance approach. Presently, every employer tries to being ethical and at similar time wants to be perceived as ethical. In this context, trade unions can result in disruption of work of organization and because of this employee suffered. Trade unions usually abuse their power by creating monopoly and such things caused deadweight welfare loss. There are number of cases in which trade unions unnecessary demands the incentives of the firm which reduced the incentives of the business, and employers pay these incentives in fear that trade unions reduced the profit of the firm in unfair manner. This result in unemployment and ultimately affect the interest of employees. This can be understood through case law London City Airport Ltd v Chacko UKEAT/0013/13/LA. In this case, ET dismissed the appeal on the ground that employee unfairly use the trade activities against the organization. As stated above, both employer and employee are aware about the rights of employee and duties of employers owned towards the employees of the organization. Employer must ensure that adequate procedure is established for the purpose of discharging the employees and also for collecting the unemployment benefits. Therefore, it can be said that employer knows about his responsibilities in this present era and discharge his responsibilities in better way. This can be understood through example, if there is any case of sexual harassment at workplace then employer is bound to follow the procedure defined by the law and try to solve the grievance of employee. In case Gibson &Ors v Sheffield City Council [2010] EWCA Civ 63, claimant files appeal against the sex discrimination at workplace which was allowed by the tribunal. In short, it can be said that there is no need for a trade union for the purpose of protecting the rights of the employees (The Economist, 2015; Heery, Conley, Delbridge, Simms, & Stewart, 2004).

Analysis of Court Cases Related to Worker Rights

Employers use number of methods to motivate the employees for the purpose of increasing the efficiency and effectiveness in the performance of the employees. Now, employers not only consider the physiological needs of the employees but also ensure their safety, social needs, esteem needs, and self-actualization needs. By fulfilling the needs of employees employers motivate their employees. In these situations, trade unions worked as barrier because of their rigid perspectives such as compensation and reward system. The responsible employer also tries to empower the employees by self-direction, self-control, and seek responsibility.Responsible employers have potential to make their employees feel that they achieved something by encouraging advancement of employee and self-growth. In these situations also trade unions applied their rigid intention and act as barrier in the progress of employee and employer (Rees, 2005).

Trade unions usually consider the hygiene factors in any organization such as company policy, working conditions, salaries, and security, but enlightened employer consider various other factors instead of hygiene factors such as motivation factors which improve the job satisfaction of employee. Employer tries to develop the motivated factors because the factors not only increase the job satisfaction in the employees and help in achieving their personal target but also increase the productivity of the employer. It can be said that employer takes personal responsibility, risk, and feedback but trade union only focuses on influence, and competitive bargaining. Employer sets the challenges for the employees with the appropriate rewards. On the other hand, trade union trade unions restrict the work and also try to reducing the output of the organization (The Guardian, 2016).

Conclusion

After considering the above facts, it can be said that if unions were not present then there would be no equality, as 100 years ago inequality were present because of which need of trade unions immerged but now employer knows that inequality results in loss and lower productivity to the organization such as reduction in product quality, high turnover of employees, low production. Therefore, it can be said that trade unions are not needed with the modern employers and it becomes unnecessary. Today we live in the world where workers are very important for the organization and employers already realized the importance of workers.Trade unions usually consider the hygiene factors in any organization such as company policy, working conditions, salaries, and security, but enlightened employer consider various other factors instead of hygiene factors such as motivation factors which improve the job satisfaction of employee. In these situations also trade unions applied their rigid intention and act as barrier in the progress of employee and employer.

References

Azam v Ofqual KEAT/0407/14/JOJ.

Dorey, P. (1995). A conservative party and trade unions. Available at: https://books.google.co.in/books?id=WmmKAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA85&lpg=PA85&dq=Are+trade+unions+outmoded+and+unnecessary+in&source=bl&ots=k-raAqO8HH&sig=j2Kyir-4K14VP38CGhVt90fZ3Jo&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiO7qKn6L_XAhXLv48KHQdVD-EQ6AEITTAH#v=onepage&q=Are%20trade%20unions%20outmoded%20and%20unnecessary%20in&f=false.  Accessed on 15th November 2017.

Gibson &Ors v Sheffield City Council [2010] EWCA Civ 63.

Holmes v Greater Glasgow Health Board UKEATS/0045/11/BI.

Heery, E. Conley, H. Delbridge, R. Simms, M. and Stewart, P. (2004) Trade Union Responses to Non-Standard Work in G. Healy, E. Heery, P. Taylor and W. Brown (eds.) The Future of Worker Representation London: Palgrave Macmillan, 127-150.

Kirton, G. and Greene, A. (2005) The Dynamics of Managing Diversity - A Critical Approach 2nd Ed. Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann.

Kirby, P. (2015). It is time to end traditional trade unions and replace them with New Unions. Available at: https://paulkirby.net/2015/10/08/it-is-time-to-end-traditional-trade-unions-and-replace-them-with-new-unions/. Accessed on 15th November 2017.

London City Airport Ltd v Chacko UKEAT/0013/13/LA.

Rees, T. (2005) ‘Reflections on the Uneven Development of Gender Mainstreaming in Europe’ International Feminist Journal of Politics 7(4): 555-574.

Rowbottom, D. (2007) ‘Rediscovering the collective application of the Equal Pay Act’ Equal Opportunities International 26(6): 541-554.

Russell, T. A Guide ToUk Employment Law. Available at: https://www.tim-russell.co.uk/upimages/employment%20guide.pdf. Accessed on 15th November 2017.

The Economist, (2015).Why trade unions are declining. Available at: https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/09/economist-explains-19. Accessed on 15th November 2017.

The Guardian, (2016).The Guardian view on the trade union bill: unprincipled and unnecessary. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/may/02/the-guardian-view-on-the-trade-union-bill-unprincipled-and-unnecessary. Accessed on 15th November 2017.

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