Essay On Trade Unions

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Back in the 19th century, trade unions were needed since they played an important role in the industrial sector of our country. They did so by negotiating better pay, work hours, benefits and safety standards for all workers (Martin, 1980). In doing so, both the employees as well as the employers benefited from trade unions. However, it is important to note that times have changed and this is no longer the case, therefore putting the need for trade unions in question. In the current situation, the employer is enlightened in regards to the labor laws in the country and makes efforts not to break them. In addition to this, the modern day employer knows how to motivate his employee and actively does so every day. Therefore, trade unions have a very small role to play in this situation since they in fact frustrate actions that are aimed at increasing productivity. Trade unions oppose benefits and rewards and become an obstacle in the increase of investment (Hartcourt & Wood, 2006). This paper will show the in the modern labor sector employers are making efforts to be more ethical, protect the rights of shareholders, as well as motivate their employees to work harder and be more productive. As such the strict practices of the trade unions have been deemed unnecessary.

About a hundred years ago, during the industrial revolution, there was a lot of growth in Australia in terms of manufacturing capability. More and more workers became employees in factories where they worked long hours for low wages and in conditions that were simply unsafe. In some instances even children were recruited in to factory work. This was by all means a difficult time for the industry since the transition was not supported by the government in terms of legislation. As a result, very little was done to halt these injustices (Crosby, 2005). This was where trade unions came into play. They negotiated better terms for all the workers since they gave workers more bargaining power when they united.

However, in today’s modern economy, collective representation is unnecessary. This is because modern times have seen machine take up nearly all of the repetitive manufacturing jobs. Employers currently seek individuals who have unique abilities and insights. This is evident from the fact that most of the occupations that have exhibited the most growth have been managerial, technical and professional in nature (Peetz, 1998). In other words, all of these jobs are dependent on the skills and creativity of the individuals themselves. There are very few workers currently seeking a contract that is not specific on what they bring to the table as individuals.

In addition to this, gradual economic changes over the years have resulted in unions being unable to deliver their big promises to their members. Trade unions brag that their members earn better wages in comparison to non union workers. However, it is important to note that they simply use their power of bargaining to take money from other parties, namely the employers, who in turn increase the prices of their goods (Drago and Wooden, 1990). The workers form the bulk of the consumers, who suffer because of the higher pricing. Apart from increased prices, unions can also lead to massive layoffs in the situations where companies are driven into bankruptcy due to the pressure of unions. For instance, in the United States, General Motors was once forced by trade unions to pay its security workers and janitors high rates. This translated to higher prices of their cars to cover the cost. Hyundai and Toyota then started selling their lower prices, which almost resulted in General Motors becoming bankrupt due to the loss of clientele.

Selective hiring has also made trade unions redundant. It is important to note that even though the typical trade union member earns more compared to the typical non unionized worker, this should not be interpreted to mean that the trade unions are skilled in negotiation (Booth, 1996). This is simply because companies which are unionized have over the years become very selective about who they employ. This has become the case because trade unions have been known to make it almost impossible to dismiss poorly performing workers. As a result, companies which are unionized undertake in more rigorous processes in order to get the most productive workers at the very beginning. Essentially, normal union member basically earns more wages whether they have general representation or not. However, when new workers choose to join a union, they do not necessarily earn more than they typically would have if they had chosen not unionized.

Most importantly, the employers have become more enlightened because of the labor laws. Australia has over the years put in place labor laws which regulate normal working hours and minimum wages (Addison and Schnabel, 2003). When trade unions were coming up years ago, some of the main concerns were the health and safety conditions of the workers. Today, the laws that have been put in place safeguard and the trade unions do not need to engage the employers since they are enlightened and avoid breaking the labor laws (Shelley & Calveley, 2007). For nearly each issue that trade unions protected the rights of workers, currently there is strong legislation which in essence makes the need for trade unions unnecessary.

Competitive pressures has also made employers realize that the employee is an important stakeholder in the organization and that it is ethical and necessary to promote his rights as a worker. Employers now embrace the fact that employees need to have time off work and be protected from discrimination in the workplace. Therefore, the employees are treated fairly in the modern workplace for either of two reasons. Either the employer avoids any possible legal repercussion or the employer is seeking to maximize productivity by treating the employee fairly with the aim of edging out completion. The involvement of trade unions on the other hand simply exerts their monopolistic power and reduces the profit of companies, which is of no benefit to either party in the end.

In conclusion, trade unions are no longer necessary since times have changed due to increase in white collar jobs and the employers have become more enlightened. The rise of white collar jobs has reduced the need for trade unions because they are not in line with the original mandate that trade unions were meant for. On the other hand, the employer has become enlightened in two main ways. These are the inception of the labor laws and the realization that the employee is an important stakeholder if maximum productivity is to be achieved. It is for these reasons that the conclusion that trade unions have become unnecessary can be drawn.


Booth, A. L. (1996). The economics of the trade union. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Harcourt, M., & Wood, G. (2006). Trade unions and democracy: Strategies and perspectives. New Brunswick, N.J: Transaction Publishers.
Addison, J. T., & Schnabel, C. (2003). International handbook of trade unions. Cheltenham [u.a.: Elgar.
Shelley, S., & Calveley, M. (2007). Learning with trade unions: A contemporary agenda in employment relations. Aldershot, England: Ashgate.
Peetz, D. (1998). Unions in a contrary world: The future of the Australian trade union movement. Cambridge [u.a.: Cambridge Univ. Press.
Martin, R. M. (1980). Trade unions in Australia: Who runs them, who belongs - their politics, their power. Ringwood, Vic: Penguin Books.
Drago, R. W., & Wooden, M. (1990). Trade unions and exit behaviour in Australia. Bedford Park, S. Aust: National Institute of Labour Studies.
Crosby, M. (2005). Power at work: Rebuilding the Australian union movement. Annandale, NSW [u.a.: Federation Press.