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Advantages and disadvantages of trade unions

Advantages and disadvantages of trade unions

This article aims to assess some of the advantages and disadvantages of trade unions from the perspectives of both employees and employers. Surely, this topic is largely debated. It depends on who the question has been asked to. However, needless to say that there are pros and cons to everything, and trade unions are not an exception in this regard.

Definitions of trade unions

Trade unions, also called labour unions, are associations in a particular industry, or company that work on securing improvements for workers through collective bargaining with employers (Duignan, 2019).

Trade unions are organisations of workers which attempt to improve the pay and working conditions for their members (BBC, 2021).

Advantages of trade unions to employees

Union members can be accompanied to a disciplinary or grievance hearing by a trade union representative/consultant. All employees, regardless of whether they are union members or not, are entitled to be accompanied by a union representative.

Employees benefit from collective bargaining done by the trade unions on their behalf. Trade unions promote maternity/paternity rights, flexible working. They also campaign against discrimination of any type, and many other things.

Disadvantages of trade unions to employees

Trades unions solely think about the circumstances, challenges, benefits of their members. They are often accused of ignoring the plights of non-members and those excluded from the labour markets e.g. the unemployed.

Trade unions represent a large group of people and make decisions democratically. However, if an employee does not like the decisions, he/she cannot do anything really to alter them.

Union members also need to pay ‘Dues’ – a regular membership fee. Full-time workers usually pay higher dues.

Advantages of trade unions to employers

Employers must listen to their employees. Company bosses around the globe have recognized that the best way to resolve issues is by way of dialogue. However, negotiating with a large number of people is often difficult. Therefore, negotiating with trade unions saves a lot of time for employers.

Disadvantages of trade unions to employers

In many industries, trade unions have created a scenario of a confrontational approach. This disrupts the activities of employers.

Fighting for the right of workers is one thing, while pushing an employer for an unrealistic pay increase is another. Some organisations simply do not have the money to spend on salary bumps; however, pressure from unions can drive them into submission resulting in financial challenges for them.

Trade unions are sometimes accused of launching strikes on flimsy grounds. These strikes may bring havocs to employers. Some trade unions are also accused of typically advocating a go-slow policy that impact on employee productivity.

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Last update: 30 June 2021


BBC (2021) Trade unions, available at: (available at: 30 June 2021)

Duignan, B. (2019) Trade union, available at: (available at: 28 June 2021)

Author: Joe David

Joe David has years of teaching experience both in the UK and abroad. He writes regularly online on a variety of topics. He has a keen interest in business, hospitality, and tourism management. He holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies and a Post Graduate Diploma in Marketing Management.

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