Contemporary issues in Trade Unions and employee relations


Apart from the dwindling membership, the trade unions have increasingly become irrelevant in the modern workplace. For example, after the British firms were exposed to the market pressures, most companies started to outsource their service to capi6talise on the cheap labor in developing countries, This did not only leave many workers redundant, but also helpless because the unions did not have adequate number of members for collective bargaining and industrial actions.

According to Freeman and Medoff (1984), the trade unions have a monopoly effects on labour force as they control the supply of labour considering the fact that the number of employees who entree the labour market during the period, 1970 (closed shop) is quite different from the 1980s. The number people affected by job cuts and redundancy also changed.

The trade unions monopolised labour supply by controlling the number of hours and placed more value on overtime. They also control he labour cost especially wages and the fringe benefits. All these affected the firm as they increased the cost of production and limited the total firm output. However, the American labor force has profoundly changed especially during the agrarian revolution, the Franklin D Roosevelt’s new deal in the 1930, and during the George bush regime.

The diminished power of trade unions did not affect the skilled workers in the successful industries because there many changes in the modern workplace. Compared to the unskilled workers in the traditional industries, the skilled workers have benefited from the changes.

The labor unions lead to the increase in the gap between the skilled workers and unskilled workers.

Compared to the 1980, the 1990 has seen a change in the labor standards characterized by flexibility in wage, work and labor standards. On the other hand, most trade unions members opted for JCC as opposed to trade union memberships leaving the trade unions with little or no effect on the labor standards.

Many employers started their own small groups internally leaving the umbrella body (trade unions). As globalization set in, many MNC became the dominant employer enforcing their Joint Consultative Committee (JCC), and Negotiating Panels.

Legal constraints have also been imposed on trade unions making it difficult for the trade unions to effectively recruit new members. This means that the level of influence o the trade unions have declined to minimum level. Ion the other hand, there are also employer sponsored participation and representation forcing the employees to reconsider their membership when it comes to trade unions and their influence on the workplace. What does this mean to the trade unions and the companies?

The changing employment relations have clear to the decline of industrial actions as well as the disintegration of the national bargaining structures. Currently, there relationship between the employer and the unions is strained by the buildup of power on the hands of the employer and the employee such that the trade unions are not recognized as an important force or prerequisite for employment.

At the enterprise levels, the employees are able to bargain effectively and this has bent the basis of individual employee’s pay and working terms and conditions. In as much as the unions are beginning to focus on the enterprise level activities, their effectiveness gas fallen. The employment contract is today’s between the employer and the employee as opposed to the employer and the trade unions. Though this has absolved the trade unions from legal actions, and employee behaviors, it has also restrained the trade unison from participating in any form of collective bargaining

Trade unions and their loss

The trade unions have mainly lost the moral high ground because they neglected the poor. The social activist are becoming more powerfully than the trade unions. Additionally, the shrinkage in memberships has lead to their loss of political high ground and advantage. Finally, the trade unions can no longer capitalize on their strategies as the capitalist have realized the importance of employing non-unionized employees as the only way to gain control over both the unionized and the non-unionized (Masters, Albright, &, Eplion, 2006, pp. 367-385).

Butler, Peter (2009) ‘Non-union employee representation: Exploring the riddle of managerial strategy’, Industrial Relations Journal, 40(3): 198-214

What is the motivation for unionization/union membership?

While the union memberships has been dwindling over the past 30 years, it is quite clear that moist of the adherent of the trade unions realized the importance of the unions when it comes to, wages, conflict resolution, and employment terms. The unionized employees are likely to benefits from better employment terms as compared to the non-unionized. This has forced many employees to stick to their trade unions despite the limitations. It is also important o note that the general persistence of the employers to directly employee their workers mean that the employer have little or no legal recourses if their employers undermine their rights. This is the other fears that have forced some employees to stick to the trade unions.

Responses to new employment rights and statutory bodies

The weakening of union power and a rise in low paid workers were key factors prompting greater intervention by the state to protect workers from the late 1990s onwards. The
concentration of such workers in largely unorganized industries led the TUC and its affiliates to reconsider their long-held ambivalence towards state intervention in the labor market. Unions seem to regard the introduction of the National Minimum Wage and creation of the Gang masters Licensing Authority (GLA) as positive developments (Kelly, 2004, pp. 267-292)

Poverty Reduction

With the loss of collective bargaining, the trade unions can no longer press for better pay for its members. This means that it has failed in its poverty reduction objective because the few who are employed work under private terms with their employers and with the high rate of unemployment fear losing their jobs. They have to accept low on wages, longer working hours and redundancy arrangements because they are not members of any trade unions.

Job creation

The trade unions may have not been direction responsible for job creation, but they influenced job creation by setting the minimum number of hours an employee was supposed to work for an organization. In this regard, most factory job and blue-collar jobs are not well paying as they would have been paying had the trade unions been effective (Badigannavar, 2007)

Trade union at the transnational level

Currently all countries have their own trade unions that are governed by country specific rules and regulations. This is the main reason why some trade unions are more effective in other countries than others. If the trade unions in different countries could become one body and work under similar framework. This way, other countries with properly structured frameworks can help the less developed countries to reinforce their rules and regulations

To the organizations

Trade union fought for the right of the employee including working conditions, terms of employment, and better conditions. To the employers, the trade unions were a cost implication that was better eliminated. Therefore, being weakening the trade unions, the organizations could drive revenue and growth as the trade unions no longer have monopoly’ and ‘voice’ effects. On the other hand, trade unions helped the organization to control their employees. Trade unions were accountable for the behaviors of their members. The absence of trade unions will mean that organization would lose their control over the employees, as they no longer have a central body to complain to.


Badigannavar, V. (2007) ‘Does Labor-Management Partnership Deliver Mutual Gains? Evidence from UK Public Services’, Advances in Industrial and Labor Relations

Kelly, J. (2004) ‘Social partnership agreements in Britain: Labor cooperation and compliance’ Industrial Relations, 43(1): 267-292

Masters M.F., Albright, R.R and, Eplion, D. (2006) ‘What did partnerships do? Evidence from the Federal Sector’ Industrial and Labor Relations Review, 59(3): 367-385.

Butler, Peter (2009) ‘Non-union employee representation: Exploring the riddle of managerial strategy’, Industrial Relations Journal, 40(3): 198-214

Central Arbitration Committee (various years), Annual Reports, available at

Colling, Trevor (2006) ‘What space for unions on the floor of rights? Trade unions and the enforcement of statutory individual employment rights’, Industrial Law Journal,
35(2): 140-160

Richard B. Freeman and James L. Medoff, (1984). What Do Unions Do? New York: Basic Books, 293 pp.


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