Good reasons for a formal system of employee representation

  • Make employee views known to management
  • Help strengthen both management’s and employee’s understanding of workplace issues and other matters affecting the business
  • Help create an atmosphere of mutual trust between employees and management and therefore improve workplace relations

Main role of trade unions

  • Support with equal pay

  • Fair pay/ living wage

  • Legal support

  • Job security

  • Improved pensions

  • Maternity leave

  • General rights protection

  • Protect and improve the real incomes of their members

  • Provide or improve job security

  • Protect workers against unfair dismissal and other issues relating to employment legislation

  • Lobby for better working conditions

  • Offer a range of other work-related services including support for people claiming compensation for injuries sustained in a job.


  • Represent and protect interests of employees


  • Negotiate on behalf of the employees with the employer

Advantages for an Employer of a Good Relationship with a Trade Union

  • Negotiating with trade unions (ideally a single union) saves time and cost rather than dealing with all employees individually
  • Unions are part of the communication process between the business and employees
  • Employee morale and motivation may be improved if they know that their interests are being protected by a union.
  • The trade union can be a supportive partner in helping a business undergo significant change.

Reasons for declining union membership

  • Decline in employment in manufacturing (where union membership is traditionally high)
  • Increased employment in the service sector (e.g., retail) where unions are less well established
  • Growth in the number of small firms which do not to recognise or need trade unions
  • Significant growth in flexible working (part-time, temporary seasonal)—where employees see less need for union protection
  • Improved employee involvement in the workplace—so less perceived need for collective bargaining

Why are employees from Starbucks and Google trying to unionise?