BedrockHR Logo Transparant

0203 330 0827

What is a Union and how should you manage one in your business?

Keeping employees happy and mentally engaged is one of the most important responsibilities that any business owner or HR manager ever faces. Sometimes this overlaps with the need to engage with Trades Unions.

Following the recent spate of strikes in private and public sectors, managing the relationship with Trades Unions feels more significant than at any time in living memory and for those that recognise Trades Unions it should be a central feature of your employee dispute resolution approach.

So how can your company work with Trades Unions to ensure that managing disputes doesn’t become a major problem? Here’s all you need to know.

What is a Trades Union?

Before looking at the process of managing Trades Unions or taking your HR services to the next level, you must first gain a deeper understanding of what they do.

A Trades Union, is a membership organisation that represents its members who are workers within a company, sector, trade or profession with the overall purpose of securing better or fairer working conditions for its members. This could mean negotiating higher pay or conditions within the workplace. Many Trades Union activities are organised through a local branch.

In an active Trades Union branch, members meet regularly to discuss any problems that they may be experiencing individually or collectively, this could relate to performance management or grievances (individual) or salaries, pensions, safety, and conditions of service(wider group) in the workplace.

Trades Unions have influence because they speak for the whole or a significant part of a workforce force and therefore have a stronger voice than an individual employee. Trades Unions will usually seek to negotiate solutions to problems but if a negotiated solution isn’t found industrial action can be taken to put pressure on an employer, for example by withdrawing labour (striking), a ban on overtime or working to rule (not undertaking discretionary work). Striking usually attracts headlines as has been seen with healthcare workers, teachers and recently seen in private companies like Amazon as well as train drivers.

By taking industrial action Trades Unions exert influence by causing significant interruption to services and businesses that is felt by management, shareholders or users of public services. There are legal restrictions, including the percentage of members who support industrial action for it to go ahead and notice of action to be given.

Engaging effectively with employees through Trades Unions, where they are recognised, is essential to reach solutions that avoid or minimise harm to a business or service.

How to engage with Trades Unions in business

Following this, a representative will speak to the management or HR department to begin the employee dispute resolution process. Equally management or HR may seek to speak with the Trades Union Representative to assist in resolving a matter.

If the purpose of a Trades union is to give workers a voice, learning to actively listen to their concerns will be essential for managing disputes in the workplace.

First and foremost, building a positive company culture will reduce the likelihood of Trades Unions raising a dispute in the first place. Of course, HR teams may still encounter individual employee disputes and having clear channels of communication is key. More generally providing an engaged and effective working culture as well as a comfortable and safe workplace will usually result in fewer disputes. Pay and conditions are always a balance between market conditions, ability to recruit and retain good people and affordability and these pressures will all need consideration. Occasionally an organisation needs to reduce its workforce and Trades Unions have a legal right to be consulted in these circumstances.

Being as transparent as possible with employees and Trades Union Representatives about these matters will usually lead to a positive relationship.

Some steps may be taken to establish a better relationship with Trades Union representatives. Some of the most effective ideas include;

  • Establish a clear line of communication with the union representative to establish clear policies and procedures. Follow this up with occasional meetings even when there are no issues.
  • Ensure that your payroll function manages Trades Union subscriptions as deductions from pay and organises payment.
  • Take grievances and disputes seriously, ensuring that a union representative is always invited to those meetings.
  • Always take a neutral tone when employees ask about joining a recognised Trades Union. Explain that they have a legal right but do not influence their decision.
  • Document all relevant information relating to employee disputes or interactions with Trades Unions, from disputes to resolutions.
  • Talk candidly about any proposed solutions to individual situations or wider disputes as the Trades Union representative may have useful suggestions.

Ultimately, if you recognise a Trades Union, this can be a useful relationship that enables necessary changes to be made and so it is worth spending time on it.

While it does take a little effort, the rewards of avoiding employee disputes in this way are plentiful. It can lead to increased productivity, lower staff turnover rates, and maintained brand reputations.

Choose BedrockHR to manage your union for your business

BedrockHR are a team of outsourced HR professionals with offices in London and Hampshire. Whether you recognise Trades unions in your business or not, our team can help with all levels of employee disputes and help to resolve situations that may arise.

To learn more about managing unions or mastering your HR strategy, get in touch with our friendly HR experts today.

Managing Employee Unions

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts