At the car manufacturers Toyota, Unite union representative Peter Tsouvallaris says “members are reminded daily of the tremendous insecurity the recession has brought to our industry”. After negotiations with management at Toyota, and faced with cuts in jobs and wages, the union has been able to recommend measures that as Peter says “will present a real opportunity to restore some measure of stability to Toyota in the coming months”.
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Unions work to secure jobs in the recession.
Legal expertise and advice.
Through the union’s own legal officers or through specialist solicitors, union full time officers and representatives have access to advice on legal aspects of working life from employment contracts, harassment, redundancy, pensions or equalities issues.
Through the union, members have an access to justice which may otherwise have been denied to them either because of a lack of knowledge of their legal rights or because they may not have the financial wherewithall to afford it.
Unions were the first to raise major concerns over levels of violence in the workplace, and RSI, and the effects of passive smoking.
When unions first raised the issue of stress, employers and the media argued it was nonsense. It is now recognised that workplace stress affects half a million people. Even today it is unions and groups of safety representatives that are highlighting the potential risks within the semi-conductor industry or from nano-technology
Research shows that union recognition has a consistently positive effect, not only to the extent to which employees are provided with training, but also on the amount of training.
Drawing from the WERS survey, the research found that where unions are recognised and negotiate over training, employees are 23.9 per cent more likely to report having received some training
Source: Training, Union Recognition and Collective Bargaining. Stuart M, Robinson A. CERIC, University of Leeds. June 2007.
In addition to the broad union wage premium it is clear that unions can also play a key role in reducing pay inequality.
Research by Professor David Metcalf suggests that there continues to be a clear union pay premium for workers that tend to face pay discrimination – women (9% improvement); black & Asian employees (8%) and manual workers (13%) – trade unions clearly play a highly significant role in combating pay inequality.
Source: British Unions: Dissolution or Resurgence Revisited. April 2001. Centre for Economic Performance.
Unions can help employers reduce staff turnover.
By giving employees a voice, rather than simply leaving a firm when they are unhappy at work, union reps significantly reduced the number of ‘exists’, improving labour retention and reducing absenteeism. The DTI estimated that this could result in savings to employers of between £72 and £143 million.
Unions help develop good practice for greener workplaces.
In 2006-07, the TUC’s ‘Green Workplaces’ project supported trade union initiatives to make six demonstration workplaces ‘greener’. These were at the steelmakers Corus, Friends Provident, DEFRA (the Government’s environment department), Scottish Power, the British Museum and the TUC. The project focused on energy saving and was funded by the Carbon Trust.
Funded by the Union Modernisation Fund, The TUC is currently supporting a number of “transformational” projects with unions to develop Green Workplace projects in specific workplaces where they are recognised.