There is no gain stating the fact that the labour unions have indeed played a crucial role during the 19th to20th century, in establishing professional standards for various industries and securing employee rights for all the workers, in terms of getting benefits like minimum wage, healthy working conditions, maternity leave and others. However, in today’s world, the average job tenure of employees has fallen to as low as 4.4 years and hence the bargaining agreements between the union representing the employee perspectives and the employers make little sense.
First of all, before arguing against the importance of trade unions representing employees’ needs in the present world, it is important to state that most of the organizations operate in flat hierarchies, and the team-based works they engage in, make it difficult to distinguish “labour” and “management”. Besides, unlike the traditional work environment scenario, many employees presently work on contracts, are self-employed or are working as freelancers, and in such a dynamic working scenario, the traditional unions have little or nothing to do. Amongst the other nations, Australia is also one of the least unionised countries where a mere fifteen percent of Australian employees are affiliated with any traditional labour union. Among the young, the participation rate is as low as 6%. The same holds true for USA, Nrth Carolina or South Dakota, where only 3% of the employees have connection with the unions (Barrows, 2017).
According to the research report submitted by Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the trade union membership of the employees has been experiencing a sharp decline. The major reason behind the decline lies in the inability of the union members to adapt to the present scenario. The trade unions can still remain relevant, if they can adapt themselves to the structural changes of the economy. With the increased rise of the service sector, growth of the small firms as well as downsizing of the government, the union will need to re-adjust and adapt itself to suit the present needs. The unions, in the present world cannot operate if they still adapt the union movement strategy of the past decades, and can only survive if they can adopt a more dynamic, internet-based society and financial world. To substantiate this argument, one can refer to the 2011 incident when the customers getting upset over the Bank of America for charging people for using debit cards, used Internet-based social media to protest and forced the company to back-down (Hassel, 2014). Thus, there is always a future for the labour unions, if they agree to re-invent their structures and tactics of operation. The labour unions should try to eliminate its collective bargaining process, and focus on creating social movement pressures while trying to represent the employees.
Given the present period of economic depression, it would be extremely an indiscreet decision for the management authority of an organization to count out the labour unions. The union still remains a powerful force in today’s world, and it does need to come forward to negotiate for better pay and flexible working conditions, in the competitive market. However, it needs to embrace new forms to execute the historic function of representing the employee needs and concerns.
Barrows, T. S. (2017). What do unions do?: a twenty-year perspective. Routledge.
Hassel, A. (2014). Trade unions and the Future of Democratic Capitalism.