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The Role of a Trade Union within the Workplace

A trade union is defined as ‘a continuous association of wage earners with the objective
of improving or maintaining conditions of employment’. Trade unions fall into three
broad groups:-
 Employee associations e.g. (SIPTU)
 Employer associations e.g.(IBEC)
 Trade Associations e.g.(Irish Nurses Organisation (INO)

Employee Trade Unions are further categorised into three main types:-
 Craft Unions
 General Unions
 White Collar Unions

Craft Unions
Trade Union that protects workers that are in the ‘skilled’ category. Workers must have
a period of apprenticeship appropriate to their work before they will be accepted into the
union. Examples – Electrical Trade Union and the Irish Print Union

General Unions
Unions that cater for semi-skilled or unskilled workers and attract members from
different industries. The main general union is SIPTU – Services, Industrial,
Professional and Technical Union

White Collar Unions


Unions catering for professional, office and service occupations. Example TUI Teachers
Union of Ireland, National Union of Journalists NUJ

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Business Administration 1
NCVA – Level 2
Objectives of Trade Unions Are:-

1. To unite employees who have common interest


2. To secure improvements in members’ conditions of employment and rates of pay
through negotiation with employers and governments
3. To maintain agreed conditions of employment, which include making sure that
promises of any increase are honoured
4. To negotiate on behalf of members when disputes arise.
5. To protect their members and strive to ensure security of their jobs
6. To provide a mechanism allowing members to express any job dissatisfaction
and to highlight any developments at local level that might conflict with their job
specification and job description
7. To minimise exploitation of workers
8. To control activities of members and discipline them, if necessary
9. To provide members with other services like information services regarding
pension rights, car insurance schemes and advice regarding any areas of doubt
concerning union directives
10. Training courses for union representatives

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LCA – 6th Year 2
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICUT)

This is the co-ordinating body to which many individual trade unions are affiliated. The
congress itself is not a trade union, so therefore it has no legal status.

Functions
1. It provides a framework to co-ordinate the activities of trade unions in Ireland
2. It consults with governments on matters affecting industrial relations – wage
agreements. etc.
3. It represents collectively the trade union movement with regard to industrial
relations and legislative and administration matters.
4. On the request of affiliated unions, it may negotiate at national level with
employers’ organisations on policy and principles relating to pay and conditions
of employment.
5. It promotes unity within the trade union movement as a whole.
6. It aims to reconcile views and relationships of unions that have similar unions to
help strengthen their structures.
7. It provides affiliated trade unions with advice and information like legal advice
and educational information and facilities.

Social Partners and Collective Bargaining


The Social Partners, that is, the unions (on behalf of employees), employers and
government representatives collectively discuss and negotiate issues concerning the
conditions of employment and pay revisions. This is referred to as Collective
Bargaining. It replaces individual bargaining that, generally, is not very effective and
would fail to secure agreement with management on many issues. The conflicts of
interest that usually exist between management and workers are best ironed out using
the collective bargaining mechanism.

There is no constitutional provision for trade union representation. This means that
employers that are not part of any union themselves are not obliged to recognise
employee grievances that are highlighted via the employee trade union.
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LCA – 6th Year 3
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LCA – 6th Year 4