Advantages and Disadvantages of Labour Unions

The labour unions and the employers have always been acting as Tom and Jerry with contrasting and common interests. The unions are endowed with the responsibility of negotiating the maximum possible pays and benefits for their members. They also work for employers with respect to ensuring the efficiency of the employees and making a profit. The IBEW Minnesota State Council, comprises 16, 000 IBEW members and 16 IBEW local unions, belonging to the electrical industry throughout the state of Minnesota.

Now what is the purpose of the existence of a local union and how do they work? A labour union is nothing but a group of workers who bond together to come to the terms of negotiation with business owners over working conditions and pay. The unions are responsible for representing the workers in a particular field or various workers across different sectors, doing similar kinds of work. The unions also play an important role in politics, i.e. working for policies that improve the worker’s lives.

How do the unions work?

The unions usually take the help of the method of collective bargaining to come to a consensus. Collective bargaining is a process of negotiation between a group of employees and employers helping to reach agreements. Various factors like benefits, working conditions, worker’s compensation and interests of the employees, play the determining role. These are represented by the trade union, of which the workers are the members.

The benefits of unions

The unions serve as a counterbalance in the big businesses. They enable the workers to have a say in the way an organization works. Let us have a look into some of the benefits of the unions for the workers:

  • Better wages and predictable costs: The unions have the responsibility of comparing the wages offered, with the industry standards and negotiating with the employers. There are labour contracts which give the employer the opportunity to predict the future costs of operation. The employers find it easier to regulate the costs and develop product pricing strategies. The employers, with the help of the unions, can also plan for expansion and investment in the development of new products. When the unions are working for both the employers as well as the employees, there is less turnover of the employees.
  • Stable workforce: The employers who have unions in their organizations, can have the assurance of a properly trained and steady workplace. The unions have their own training programs for the professional betterment of the employees. Well-trained employees are often the need of the hour as they create safer and healthier work conditions. Thus, there are lesser number of lost days because of injuries and illnesses. The unions also take the responsibility of appointing a work accident lawyer in case there is an injury.
  • Better working conditions: The IBEW local 110 union also takes the responsibility of ensuring better conditions of work, as opposed to the harsh conditions of the yesteryears. Earlier, even during the normal workflow, there were 12 hours of work, no weekends, no holidays or even no paid sick leaves. Child labour was a very common scenario. The unions helped in putting an end to these abuses. Their efforts also led to the implementation of stricter laws.

There were some well-defined advantages of the unions, for the society also. 

  • Stronger industries and more productive workers: The unions have reinforced policies that have provided an impetus to the domestic industries. The unions are also credited with improving the productivity of the workers. 
  • Higher incomes and less poverty as its result: As the unions are responsible for an increase in the wages, the workers who are members and the workers who are not, both get benefitted. There is also less poverty as fewer people depend on government ad programmes.

Disadvantages of Unions

Besides some demonstrable perks, membership of the unions has some disadvantages as well. The workers have to face the following cons:

  • Dues of the unions: The unions charge their members to cover their costs. A report suggests that union fees can cover around 4% of the salary of the workers, which is a menace for low-income workers.
  • Less autonomy: The union members are bound by the decisions of the unions, even if they don’t agree with them. 
  • Improper fund usage: the money collected by the union are meant to be spent on the activities of the unions. However, sometimes this money gets misdirected and do not really benefit the workers.

The presence of the unions also has some drawbacks for society. The IBEW Minnesota State Council has been found to increase the labour cost of the business in that area, as per some reports. The unions can also increase the non-union labour cost by asking for high minimum wages. This is responsible for making the businesses run their operations with greater expenses and lesser margins of profit.