Individuals in a workplace can be vulnerable to unjust treatment, bullying, redundancy or injury and can find it hard to negotiate pay and better conditions of service on their own. Unions empower workers by representing them collectively. For example:
- Research shows that union members in the UK receive higher pay (on average 12.5% more), better sickness and pension benefits, more holiday and more flexible working hours than non-members
- Unions win millions of pounds a year in compensation for members who suffer injuries, or who are discriminated against at work
- Accident rates are higher for non-union members.
So What Do Unions Do?
- Negotiate agreements with employers on pay and conditions, including health and safety
- Discuss major changes to the workplace such as large scale redundancy
- Discuss their members’ concerns with employers
- Accompany their members in disciplinary and grievance meetings
- Provide their members with legal and financial advice
- Provide education facilities and certain consumer benefits such as discounted insurance
- Provide a collective voice for employees and campaign for a fairer society.
For more info: http://www.tuc.org.uk/extras/unionsatwork.pdf
How do I join a Union?
By law, your employer cannot penalise you if you choose to join a trade union or continue to be a member of a union.
Where a trade union is well-established at a workplace, some employees may act as local trade union representatives. If you are employed in such a workplace and want to join a trade union, you could approach a trade union representative, such as a shop steward or a trade union learning representative, for more information. Look at staff noticeboards or ask fellow workers.
If there is no union branch or rep at your workplace you can still join a union.
More information can be found at the TUC website workSMART which has an interactive tool to help you find the union which covers your type of employment.
The TUC (Trades Union Congress) is the largest umbrella organisation representing UK trade unions. It has a list of the trade unions that are its members in its directory, with contact numbers. Normally unions have regional offices, so it’s worth looking for the contact details of those on the main websites. Try searching Midlands, East Midlands or occasionally West Midlands: http://www.tuc.org.uk/tuc/unions_main.cfm
There is also a government website which outlines your rights
to join a TU: https://www.gov.uk/join-trade-union/joining-a-trade-union