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What is a Trade Union?

A Trade Union is a group of workers which aims to protect the employment rights and improve the working conditions of its members.

They aim to help their members in a number of different ways such as:

  • Negotiating better pay
  • Negotiating better working conditions, like more holidays or improved health and safety
  • Providing training for new skills
  • Offering support in disciplinary and grievance meetings
  • Providing legal and financial advice

Employers which recognise a union will negotiate with it over members’ pay and conditions.

Employers can recognise a trade union voluntarily or they can be forced to recognise it by law. It is a legal requirement for employers to recognise unions if more than 50% of its workers belong to a union.

If less than 50% of workers at a company or organisation are part of a trade union then the employer does not necessarily have to recognise it and therefore does not have to negotiate with it over pay and working conditions.

However, there are still some benefits of being part of a trade union in a company that doesn’t recognise one. For example, all members still have full access to the support structure offered by a union – such as legal experts – for help with any work-related issues. It is also a legal right to be accompanied by a union official in any disciplinary and grievance meetings regardless of whether an employer recognises a union or not.

Union members have to pay a subscription fee. There is often a discount for trainees and part-time workers.

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