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Living in a Democracy. Trade Unions. What are trade unions?. T rade unions are organisations that represent people at work. Their purpose is to protect and improve people's pay and conditions of employment. They also campaign for laws and policies which will benefit working people.

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Living in a Democracy


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    1. Living in a Democracy Trade Unions

    2. What are trade unions? • Trade unions are organisations that represent people at work. Their purpose is to protect and improve people's pay and conditions of employment. They also campaign for laws and policies which will benefit working people. • Trade unions exist because an individual worker has very little power to influence decisions that are made about his or her job. By joining together with other workers, there is more chance of having a voice and influence.

    3. What types of trade union are there? • Craft Unions are the oldest type of union.  Workers with common skills often joined together to form unions.  Examples are the Musicians Union and the National Union of Journalists. • National Union of Journalists • Musicians Union

    4. What types of trade union are there? • Industrial Unions are formed by unions of a particular industry, such as coalminers, railway workers or gas workers Examples are National Union of Mineworkers and the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians • The National Union of Mineworkers • UCATT

    5. What types of trade union are there? • General Unions are made up of workers with a wide range of skills from different occupations.  • Examples are UNISON and UNITE – a merger of T & G and AMICUS in 2007. • UNISON Scotland • T & G • UNITE

    6. Reasons for joining a trade unionHelping you with problems at work • You get advice when you have a problem at work. For example, if you were asked to do a job you were not properly trained for, the union could stand up for you.

    7. Reasons for joining a trade unionRepresenting you in discussions • Trade unions represent you and other members in discussions with employers. Discussions can be about any aspect of your work or your workplace.

    8. Reasons for joining a trade unionImproving your working conditions • The union helps to improve your wages and working conditions by negotiating with employers. When employers and unions get together to discuss a wage claim it is called collective bargaining.

    9. Reasons for joining a trade unionEnforcing rights at work • The union makes sure your rights are enforced at work. All employees have rights concerning things like health and safety.

    10. Reasons for joining a trade unionProviding you with legal help • A trade union will provide support for you in a dispute with your employer. You can be represented by your union in any meeting with your employer or at an Industrial Tribunal. You can also get help with legal advice and costs.

    11. Reasons for joining a trade unionFighting for equality • Your union will fight discrimination and promote equal rights at work for women, ethnic minorities and the disabled.

    12. Reasons for joining a trade unionProviding you with services • The union provides services for you such as welfare benefits, legal help, financial advice and services, cheaper insurance, discounts, etc.

    13. Why people join trade unionsSurvey Results The table below shows the results of a survey which looked at the reasons why people joined trade unions and why they remained members.

    14. Reasons for not joining a trade union • If you are a well-paid worker, you may not see the need to join a union. • If you are a low-paid worker, you may not be able to afford the union subscriptions. • If you work for an employer who does not recognise unions, you may not be able to join one.

    15. Reasons for not joining a trade union • If you are self-employed, running your own business, you have no reason to join a union. • If you are working for a small family business, you may not feel the need to join a union. • You may be working in an industry which has no organised unions.

    16. Reasons for not joining a trade union • You may not support the idea of trade unions at all and may disagree with their methods. You may be against taking strike action. You have the right not to join as well to join a trade union. • You may be aware that non-members get the same benefits of pay rises and better working conditions as members, without having to pay membership fees.

    17. Trade Union Membership 1995-2004

    18. Trade Union MembershipAge and Gender 2004

    19. Trade Union MembershipEthnicity

    20. Membership of selected Trade Unions 2004

    21. Trade Union Action Overtime Ban Many employers depend on their workers doing extra work every week. If the workers refuse to work longer than the basic hours then the employer might lose profits.

    22. Trade Union ActionOvertime Ban Dec 15 2003 Land Rover overtime ban calledWorkers at Land Rover are to ban overtime as part of industrial action in a dispute over pay, it was announced today.Union members will also withdraw flexible working time arrangements in the New Year unless the row is resolved. But union leaders pulled back from calling workers at the company's plant in Solihull out on strike even though they voted in favour of stoppages. Amicus national officer, Duncan Simpson, said: "The fact that the trade unions have not implemented an all-out strike demonstrates our willingness to talk to resolve the issue. We would now call upon the company to make a similar positive response." Unions are pressing for an increase in an offer of 6.5% over two years and said they want parity with employees at Jaguar. Both firms are owned by Ford. The overtime ban will start next Monday and union leaders will meet in the New Year to consider their next move.

    23. Trade Union Action Work-to-rule The workers stick to each petty rule thus slowing down production. For example, bin men could lift one bin bag at a time rather than picking up several.

    24. Trade Union ActionWork-to-rule Monday, 2 September, 2002 Firefighters work to rule Crews at some Scottish fire stations have begun answering emergency calls only in their dispute over pay, according to union officials. The action began as last-ditch pay talks aimed at averting industrial action by firefighters across the UK broke down. Tam Tierney, Scottish secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said the action started in the Strathclyde area on Monday morning. Mr Tierney said he believed the unofficial action had also spread to a number of English cities. Duties such as routine inspections and equipment checks were likely to be affected. Firefighters have been offered a 4% pay rise and the chance of an independent inquiry to examine wages and conditions in the service. The union has demanded a 40% increase to take a qualified firefighter's salary from £21,500 to £30,000. A spokesman for Grampian Fire Brigade said 78 operational staff, as well as union members among the support staff, had begun working torule.

    25. Trade Union Action Go Slow Workers deliberately slow down their work rate. The driver of a bin lorry could travel to and from the depot at 20 mph rather than 30 mph.

    26. Trade Union ActionGo Slow Friday, 16 September 2005 Fuel protesters complete go-slow A convoy of 60 fuel price protesters' vehicles has completed its crawl along the M4 in south Wales as petrol retailers engage in a price war.Protesters agreed to drive at 50mph after their leader was arrested then "de-arrested" for allegedly refusing to move from the second lane, police said. Following the two-way go-slow between Carmarthenshire and Newport, organisers decided not to blockade oil refineries. Convoy leader Mike Greene, of the Welsh Hauliers and Public Less Tax on Fuel Campaign, said protesters had decided against a refinery blockade on Friday because they believed they had got their message across. BP said later that reductions would be likely at its 400 company-owned stations over the weekend, though it could not specify how big they would be. The convoy concluded its return journey to Cross Hands, near Llanelli, at around 1830 BST, with vehicles travelling at about 30mph, Mr Greene said. He said 50 to 60 vehicles were involved in the protest, but police said the number was changing all the time. Police had also used the Public Order Act on Friday morning to instruct drivers not to drop their speed below 40mph and to drive only on the inside lane, warning those flouting the conditions would be prosecuted.

    27. Trade Union Action Strike A trade union can call its members out on an official strike. They may choose to call a one-day strike to show the employers how serious they are. Workers do not get paid by their employer while out on strike, but usually the trade union gives them some strike pay.

    28. Trade Union ActionStrike Thursday, 13 October 2005 Bus drivers agree new pay package Strike action by First bus drivers in central and east Scotland has endedafter staff accepted an improved pay deal, union bosses have said.Up to 800 drivers staged a series of one and two-day walkouts last month. Last week, drivers in the central region agreed to accept the package of £8 an hour, backdated to 3 October this year, rising to £8.25 on 11 December. Drivers in Edinburgh and the Lothians threw out the offer, but have now voted to accept a repackaged deal. This would see them get an hourly rate of £8 from the end of October, going up to £8.25 in November. They are currently paid £7.40 an hour. Two thirds of those balloted backed the offer, which had been recommended by the union. A T&G spokesman said: "This dispute is now over and bus services will return to normal. "The final offer does represent a significant improvement and was the best we felt was available in the circumstances." First operations director Juliette Turner said the company was pleased that drivers had voted in favour of the proposal. "On behalf of First, I would like to apologise to our customers for the industrial action over recent weeks," she added.

    29. Trade Union Action Official and Unofficial Strikes • By law, official strikes can only go ahead after a secret ballot of the members and if the employer is given several weeks’ notice. If the trade union fails to do this the employer can sue the union. • Unofficial strikes, without union backing, are illegal. Workers face the sack if they strike in this way. It is also illegal to take strike action to help workers in other workplaces. For example, teachers cannot hold a sympathy strike in support of nurses.

    30. Trade Union ActionUnofficial Strike Thursday, 18 August 2005 Don't victimise strikers, BA told A union has warned British Airways not to victimise staff who took part in an unofficial strike last week.The Transport & General Workers' Union (T&G) warned it would support "legal industrial action" in a row over job cuts at catering firm Gate Gourmet. BA is investigating whether ground staff were bullied into taking part in the unofficial strike in support of 670 workers sacked by the caterer. BA also said it will not pay staff who walked out as they had broken the law. BBC labour affairs correspondent Stephen Cape says workers who are found to have breached the airline's policies could now face a warning or dismissal. The airline has also launched a confidential hotline for staff to report any concerns.

    31. Trade Union Action Picket Lines Striking workers can stand outside their workplace with banners and leaflets and try to persuade other non-striking workers to support them. However, their numbers are strictly controlled as is the way they must behave.

    32. Trade Union ActionPicket Lines Wednesday, 19 February, 2003 Council staff in angry demonstrations Councillors had to brave the pickets as they arrived for their meeting. Striking council staff have taken part in angry demonstrations outside the civic centre in Southampton. Two thousand members of the public sector union, Unison, went on strike on Wednesday, to protest against council plans to cut 120 jobs in the city. Picketing the city centre council offices, they made their anger clear to councillors arriving for a crucial budget meeting. The basic problem we have is that the government have taken the decision to divert resources from councils in the South. Councillor Stephen Barnes-Andrews The Labour council says the budget is under strain because of central government's decision to cut their grant by £7m. No graves were dug, libraries and housing offices were closed, while social services were severely disrupted.

    33. Trade UnionsThe Work of a Shop Steward • A shop steward is one of the most important people in a trade union. • A shop steward is sometimes called a union representative. • A shop steward is elected by the members at their work-place to represent them in the day-to-day running of the union.

    34. Trade UnionsThe Work of a Shop Steward Representing Members – problems at work • When union members have a problem at work, it is the shop steward they turn to. • The shop steward can then raise the matter with management, or consult other union officials with more knowledge of the problem. • The shop steward can accompany a member when being interviewed by management. • If a worker faces a disciplinary hearing, or wishes to take out a grievance against the management, the shop steward will give advice and may attend the hearing. • The most common problems that shop stewards are asked about are pay, working conditions, health and safety, overtime, holiday entitlements.

    35. Trade UnionsThe Work of a Shop Steward Recruiting New Members • Shop stewards are responsible for encouraging non-members to join a union. • Shop stewards will put up posters outlining the benefits of union membership and distribute leaflets. • When new workers are employed, the shop steward may meet them and try to persuade them to join the union. • The shop steward will provide information packs to new members and arrange for subscriptions to be collected or paid by direct debit through the members’ bank accounts.

    36. Trade UnionsThe Work of a Shop Steward Informing Members • The shop steward acts as a link between union headquarters and the individual members. • All mail from headquarters will go to the shop steward, who will make the information available to members. • It is the responsibility of the shop steward to distribute official union magazinesor newsletters and to display important information on union noticeboards for members to read. • The shop steward will attend union branch meetings and pass on information at workplace meetings.

    37. Trade UnionsThe Work of a Shop Steward Supporting Shop Stewards • Many employers realise the importance of a good shop steward. • Shop stewards can help solve small problems before they become major ones. • Many employers give shop stewards time off work to do their shop steward duties, such as attending union meetings. • Employers may also allow them paid time off work to attend courses run by the union to improve their skills.

    38. Trade UnionsParticipation in a Trade Union Paying Union Fees Some workers pay by direct debit through their bank. Many workers still pay their fees to the shop steward on pay day.

    39. Trade UnionsParticipation in a Trade Union Attending Meetings Members can go along to meetings called by the shop steward and to branch meetings where many decisions are made.

    40. Trade UnionsParticipation in a Trade Union Electing officials Union members can vote to elect shop stewards and other union officials. These are often postal elections, although many members often do not bother to post the letter with their vote.

    41. Trade UnionsParticipation in a Trade Union Standing for election Members can stand for the post of shop steward or health and safety representative. They could go along to regional meetings and become an elected official there. Doru Athinodoru, GMB steward/safety representative.

    42. Trade UnionsParticipation in a Trade Union Supporting decisions When a union has arrived at a decision, each member is expected to support that decision even if they voted against it. If all members act together the union will be stronger. This could include taking part in industrial action.