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Finance from A to Z: Week 21 (U)

Finance from A to Z: Week 21 (U)

Here’s a small riddle: what is often taken for granted, and yet also overlooked? Unions! Unions play a significant role in stabilising the economy and promoting growth by assisting more employees earn reasonable pay with more job security. More working people can now afford homes, better food, clothing, vehicles, and other consumer items thanks to unions. So, in this week’s article, we will take a closer look at what unions are, and how they work!

U stands for Unions!

What Is a Labour Union?

Oftentimes, it is necessary to improve salary, benefits, and working conditions for employees in a given trade, industry, or corporation- labour unions are an organisation formed by workers to serve this purpose. Also referred to as trade unions, or workers unions, labour unions select representatives to negotiate on behalf of the worker collective against their employers in hopes that an agreement that specifies working conditions for a while is produced. Similar to democracies, unions are specific to industries and work with local chapters, each of which obtains a charter from the national-level organisation. 

How a Labour Union Works

Elections are held to select executives in labour unions, which have a democratic structure and are tasked with making choices that are in the best interests of the members. Employees contribute to the union through dues, and in exchange, the labour union represents the interests of the workers. The public sector (government) and individuals working in the transportation and utility industries are now the two groups most likely to belong to a union.

Forming unions is, theoretically, a simple task. All that is necessary is that a locally based group of employees obtains a charter from a national-level labour organisation. In practice, however, the process can be a little convoluted. It should be noted that employers are permitted to make efforts to dissuade workers from organising; however, it is against the law for an employer to use coercion, violence, or other coercive methods to discourage employee unionisation. With that said, here is the overall process of union formation broken down:

  1. A bargaining unit is first established, which is a group that a union represents while negotiating with an employer. 
  2. A collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is signed once talks have resulted in an agreement.
  3. A CBA cannot be modified by the employer without the consent of the union representative once it has been signed. The CBA is in place for a specific amount of time, and the union oversees it to ensure that the employer complies with its terms.

While unions can be a powerful vehicle for epitomising the demands of employees, they are not the be all and end all. Indeed, while laws generally require employers to bargain with unions in good faith, the employer is not actually required to agree to any specific terms. Because of this, it is typical for multiple negotiation rounds to take place between the union's bargaining unit—a group of members whose responsibility it is to ensure that its members are fairly compensated and represented—and the employer in the hopes that, at the very least, some sort of agreement can be reached. In the ideal case scenario, a collective bargaining agreement (CBA), specifying pay scales and other employment terms, such as vacation and sick days, benefits, working hours, and working conditions that employees may wish, is ultimately reached and signed. An employer cannot modify the CBA after it has been signed without the consent of a union representative. CBAs do, however, ultimately come to an end, at which point the labour union and management must bargain over and sign a new contract.

That’s all for this week’s submission. Thanks for reading, and see you in the next one!

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