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Trade union: employee right to form and operate

Taslim Ahammad:

Trade unions are innate of the necessity of working class people to protect their rights also to defend themselves against injustices and exploitation by their employers. As a result, trade unions provide a platform for workers’ collection action and constitute an integral part of the relationship between employers and the employed.

Alone a worker is too weak to protect and advance interests in own and can do so only when acts collectively in the trade union with fellow workers. The unity of workers through trade unions is essential to collective action because a trade union gives an individual worker the support of an organisation capable of representing and safeguarding employee’s interest, which alone unable to do either for fear of dismissal or for lack of knowledge. Trade unions in developing an under developed countries are however, beset with countless odds.

A trade union, union or labour union is an organization of workers. A trade union means an association of workers in one or more professions carried on mainly for the purpose of protecting and advancing the members economic interest in connection with their daily work.  This may include the negotiation of wages, work rules, complaint procedures, rules governing hiring, firing and promotion of workers, benefits, workplace safety and policies.

Trade union structure – Workers, being in different stages of group and class-consciousness, may have divergent interests and objectives, as they perceive them to be. Due to this divergence, a variety of structural types of unions have emerged. Each of these bases gives rise to a particular type of union, for instance, craft union, an industrial union, a general union and so forth.

Trade union in Bangladesh – Democracy in the larger society is a prime and essential condition for the development of industrial relations. It is surprising to note that after independence, the frequent changes in government and emergence of military rule during 1975-1979 and 1982-1990 hampered the democratic environment for industrial relations in general and trade unionism in particular. Also, due to very poor literacy level, workers of Bangladesh are completely in the dark about their rights and obligations. Therefore, the labour force participation rate in trade unionism is only a very few.

Industrial disputes –  Industrial disputes may be said to be disagreement or controversy between management and labour with respect to wages, working conditions, other employment matters or union recognition. Such a dispute may include controversies between rival unions regarding jurisdiction also. There can be as many industrial disputes as there are points of contract between management and labour or one industrial dispute may cover many issues of conflict.

Leadership in union – Leadership role in a trade union has a variety of demand placed on it. Not only does it require a certain amount of technical knowledge of the nature of business of the particular organization, but also a sympathetic understanding of the workers, their attitudes and their problems. A certain amount of commitment and empathy for a cause, even in uncertain conditions, is necessary. A trade union is not only operated but is also known by the people who provide leadership through thick and thin. Sometimes the strength of a trade union is synonymous with the strength of its leadership.

Roles of union – Although trade unions look after the interests of their members, they also recognise the advantages of working in partnership with employers. This is because a successful, profitable business is good for workers and therefore good for the union and its members. When issues arise at the workplace between you and your employee, the goal is to secure a “win-win” in which both sides feel as if they each attained something from the deal.

Employees and other workers have the right to be accompanied at a disciplinary or grievance hearing. They can choose to be accompanied by a co-worker or a union representative. Often, the union representative, will be a workplace representative who is also a co-worker.

It helps reduce turnover rate. The goal of most labour unions is not to create conflict with business; the goal is to ensure that employees are treated fairly, and that they feel comfortable and secure on the job. When that goal is achieved, employees tend to stick around, instead of trying to find a more favourable situation.

Other union benefits; that union workers are much more likely to try secure pensions. Ensure fair wages and benefits, workers who are satisfied with their jobs are more likely to work hard, instead of looking for a quick way to exit company. Encourage companies to invest in training and development for better performance and personal as well as professional development of employees. Act as a positive change agent thus gaining employees’ support for the smooth running of the organization. Protect the interests of employees by taking active participation in the management. Safeguard organizational stability, growth, and leadership.

Collective bargaining. An individual worker may not have the skill, time or willingness to negotiate with employer. A worker is also likely to have limited bargaining power. Hence, unions enable workers to press their claims through collective bargaining.

The most common purpose of these associations or unions is maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour issues through collective bargaining with employers. Hence, employees must take opportunity to assist in organising such a union to anticipate organisation by a legitimate union.

Taslim Ahammad

Assistant Professor, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Science and Technology University (BSMRSTU), Gopalganj, Bangladesh.