Trade Unions, Their Role and Objectives


This paper is a discussion on the topic of trade unions. It seeks to describe how representative bodies in form of trade unions support employees. It is argued that trade unions are indispensable tools for employees in the twenty first century due to the challenging business environments. The discussion starts with an overview of trade unions and their objectives. It then looks at the reasons why trade unions are necessary in the twenty first century. At the end is a conclusion which sums up the main arguments of the discussion.


A trade union is defined as a group of employees who come together to push for their interests. Trade unions are primarily concerned with the protection of the welfare of employees by improving the employer- employee relationships. Employees join trade unions either by choice of by default. The membership in employees’ unions gives employees a psychological sense of security from intimidation and abuse of their rights by their employers. Trade unions are mostly associated with disputes and confrontations between employers and employees. However, that is not always the case because trade unions are formed with the noble intention of instilling discipline and respect between employers and employees.

Trade unions aim at giving employees what is referred to as collective bargaining which aims at turning disagreements into agreements through negotiations. Collective bargaining also aims at establishing rules and regulations on matters of mutual concern to unions and employees and the terms of employment (The advocates: the role of trade unions and collective bargaining 2003).

There are various types of trade unions. They include crafts unions for skilled craftsmen, occupational and non-occupational unions for professionals, management unions for management staff, industrial unions for people in a particular industry, and general unions which bring together employees from various industries especially those which are not clearly defined or have few members.

The trade unions’ history can be traced back to the time of industrial revolution when many changes were witnessed in many organisations due to the spread of industrialisation and adoption of new technology. Industrial revolution also made many organisations to mistreat their employees due to increased supply of skilled and unskilled labour. Many employees therefore joined together to form trade unions so as to resist exploitation, victimisation, and mistreatment by their employers (Trade union congress: Britain’s unions 2014).

During industrial revolution, trade unions were concerned with two main issues namely the improvement of employees’ wages and pushing for employees’ interests through activism. In the twenty first century, there are many reasons why employees join trade unions. These include the passion in leadership, dissatisfaction with the management, individual conviction, peer pressure from fellow employees, and coercion (Ndirect: introduction to trade unions 2014).

One objective of trade unions in the twenty first century is to fight for good salaries for employees. The reason is that the twenty first century has been characterised by ever increasing cost of living, which calls for a similar increase in income so at to enable employees to work without straining themselves. Many organisations are guided by the principle of maximisation of profits and for this reason; they are reluctant to increase the wages of their employees and thus the need for trade unions (Ndirect: introduction to trade unions 2014).

The other objective of trade unions is to give employees a sense of job security by raising objections to illegal retrenchment. Many organisations have undergone restructuring through mergers and acquisitions. These mergers and acquisitions have lead to lose of jobs by many employees. It is for this reason that trade unions exist to force such organisations to give the retrenched employees other alternatives because the organisations have the capacity to do so. Further to that, employees have a right to employment which is protected by international labour laws and organisations (Ndirect: introduction to trade unions 2014).

Due to increased competition in the twenty first century, many organisations usually focus on cutting costs so as to increase their profits. As a result, they do not invest in providing employees with a safe work environment. Due to the desire to maximise profits, employees may be forced to work without proper protective equipment which may expose them to various health risks. In the health sector for example, nurses may be forced to work without gloves which may expose them to dangers of contracting some diseases from their patients, especially during surgery or delivery. As a result, there is need for trade unions to fight for the provision of a good work environment for employees for them to discharge their duties without compromising their health and safety. Trade unions also fight for the conservation of the environment by corporations through what is referred to as corporate social responsibility (Ndirect: introduction to trade unions 2014).

Trade unions also aim at enabling employees to benefit from the surplus of their labour. With the enhancement of corporate governance, organisations are forced to disclose their internal functions and processes including their annual profits and their relationship with their customers and shareholders (Naukrihub: importance of trade unions 2014). For this reason, employees are always aware of the profits made by their organisations. If the organisations make huge profits, trade unions usually fight for the employees to be given some incentives like wage or salary increment; the argument being that employees are important stakeholders in the achievement of such huge profits and therefore have a right to claim a share of the same.

Trade unions also aim at safeguarding the interests of employees by cushioning them from exploitation by their employers. It is also a medium through which employees’ grievances can be expressed without fear of intimidation or victimisation. Even though the twenty first century management is characterised by a radical shift from the scientific management to the human relations approach to management, many organisations still adhere to the scientific management school of thought which assumed that managers were knowledgeable and were able to accurately plan and set the tasks for their employees and make the correct predictions regarding how much work employees were supposed to do per day. The scientific management school of thought also assumed that employees were like robots and lacked the ability to make decisions regarding their work (Lenin 2002).

Trade unions are therefore established to bargain for employees for them to have a say in their job regarding the best ways of discharging their duties. The argument is that employees have a right to derive satisfaction from their work, which can only happen if their creativity and innovation are stimulated ( trade unions 2014).


In conclusion, trade unions are very essential in the twenty first century due to the many challenges in the contemporary organisations. The desire by many organisations to cut the cost of production exposes many employees to poor working conditions which call for trade unions to fight for better working conditions for employees. The increase in the cost of living also makes it important for trade unions to fight for good wages and salaries for employees. Trade unions also provide a medium for employees’ grievances to be aired to the management. They also ensure that employees benefit from the increased profits of their organisations.

In the twenty first century, there has been an increase in the adoption of new technologies which are capable of doing the jobs done by employees. Due to the desire to cut on the cost of production, many organisations usually opt for these technologies. The adoption of these technologies has lead to lose of jobs by many employees who have several dependants. It has also lead to an unemployment crisis and consequently the increase in crime and insecurity. It is for these reasons that trade unions have been formed to ensure that no employees lose their jobs due to adoption of new technologies by organisations.

Trade unions have been in the fore front in pushing for the adoption of technologies which only supplement the work done by employees but not to substitute them. They have largely been successful especially due to the intensive campaigns by civil society organisations which push for the respect of civil liberties and human rights. The international labour organisation has also contributed a lot in the formation and strengthening of trade unions across the globe, thus making them gain momentum and have many members.

Reference List trade unions 2014, Web.

Lenin, V.I 2002, Role and functions of the trade unions, Web.

Naukrihub: importance of trade unions 2014, Web.

Ndirect: introduction to trade unions 2014, Web.

The advocates: the role of trade unions and collective bargaining 2003, Web.

Trade union congress: britain’s unions 2014, Web.