Home » Posts » Trade Unions: Challenges of the times

Trade Unions: Challenges of the times

by Dennis De Depeiza
3 min read
A+A-
Reset

In discussing the future of trade unions, some would share a sense of optimism while others would be pessimistic. Most would agree that trade unions are generally engaged in fierce competition for the membership of employees in a contracting workforce. The argument may be that globalisation, technological changes, and the eroding union power are contributing factors.

The observation was made “that over the last 30 years in many advanced industrialised countries around the world, but notably in the US and Europe, trade unions have been in decline, if not ‘crisis’. Declining membership, density, bargaining coverage, strike levels, and political influence have all underlined their apparent inability to ‘renew’ themselves, with unions often tending to rely on institutional support rather than developing proactive strategies for confronting their predicament.” (Ralph Darlington, The Role of Trade Unions in Building Resistance: Theoretical, Historical and Comparative Perspectives)

The strength and effectiveness of trade unions reside in their ability to attract and maintain members. It ought to be a burning concern for trade union leaders, if the membership has doubts over the work of the organisation in safeguarding the welfare of workers, securing fair wages for workers, improving their conditions of service, securing opportunities for promotion and training, safeguarding security of tenure and improving work-life balance. If this perspective is known to have currency, then trade unions have real cause to be concerned.

It has been repeatedly said that trade union organising is the key to the mobilisation effort. Along with this, unions are expected to emphasise maintaining communication with the membership and on membership education. In making all this happen, each workplace must have shop stewards in place. It will also fall flat if shop stewards are not properly trained, are ineffective in the discharge of their duties, and fail to demonstrate commitment to their assigned responsibilities. In the scheme of things, trade unions might want to revisit the functioning of their shop stewards and urgently undertake to address areas of deficiencies where these exist. It cannot be overlooked that concentration also has to be placed on the active involvement of the membership in the life and work of trade unions.

Maintaining the image of trade unions becomes important, for it is critical to ensure that it is not tarnished. Trade unions should pay attention to their active involvement in partisan politics. The idea of associating with a political party is potentially divisive for trade unions. It is for this reason that the membership may question the loyalty of trade union leaders to the causes of workers; particularly in instances where they openly show support to a political party. This can be dangerous to the organising and mobilisation efforts of trade unions. The loss of confidence in the organisation could be devastating to its survival, impact and influence it could bring to bear.

The problem of divided loyalties makes life even more difficult for trade union unity. This can contribute to infighting, as accusations tend to fly that there are political operatives within the ranks. The call for unity and solidarity amongst trade unions may be derailed as a consequence of the rivalry to attract members and to be established as the collective bargaining unit within workplaces. The intensity of this situation can be driven by the poaching of members. This is followed by the public ridiculing and bad-mouthing of fellow trade unions. Those trade unionists who masquerade on political platforms might need to reflect on their actions in maintaining the integrity of trade unions in general.

The introduction of repressive legislation which governments are attempting to introduce is a development which has to be carefully monitored and pushed against by labour unions, as necessary. Trade unions must fight to maintain freedom of speech, expression and civil liberties. Next, there is the struggle to acquire trade union recognition status. This is where the employers are pushing back on labour consolidating itself in the workplace. Arguably, it is in labour’s best interest to ensure that it is not silenced or marginalised.

You may also like

About Us

Barbados Today logos white-14

The (Barbados) Today Inc. is a privately owned, dynamic and innovative Media Production Company.

Useful Links

Get Our News

Newsletter

Subscribe my Newsletter for new blog posts, tips & new photos. Let's stay updated!

Barbados Today logos white-14

The (Barbados) Today Inc. is a privately owned, dynamic and innovative Media Production Company.

BT Lifestyle

Newsletter

Subscribe my Newsletter for new blog posts, tips & new photos. Let's stay updated!

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue to use this site we will assume that you are happy with it. Accept Privacy Policy

-
00:00
00:00
Update Required Flash plugin
-
00:00
00:00