Topic Tuesday ~ More Thoughts on Trade Unions

As I wrote last week, I think it is more important than ever to unite and support unions so our working rights are not slowly taken away. So I re-post a short series I did in May 2016 about trade unions. This week I am not as opinionated as last week :-).

May 10th, 2016

Trade Unions and Worker’s Rights bother me.

I have been thinking a lot about last weeks post and have decided I dedicated May’s Tuesdays to Topic Tuesday and Trade Unions. Last week I wrote that I believe working people today do not know how Unions work and how important they are.

On my research into trade unions in the UK, I came across a homepage called “Unions Make Us Stronger: TUC History online.” It is a page about the history of UK Trade Unions but also an excellent resource for anything connected with workers rights and trade unions. In its introduction, it says: “Trade unions have played, and will continue to play, a decisive role in shaping economic and social developments in Britain – yet much of their history is at present unknown and inaccessible to the public.”

I hear so many of my fellow workers complain about their work and pay situation, but at the same time, they seem to think nothing can be done about it. They just put up with it and keep complaining. And I have come to wonder why.

Now I haven’t been to school in the UK. So I do not know how much children learn about the industrial revolution and the work of the likes of Karl Marx. When I was in school, the industrial revolution, Karl Marx, Robert Owen or the idea of capitalism and socialism were thought to be important, and it was taught in school. However, Germany was part Western democratic and part Eastern communist. So the Western region where I grew up in had to prove towards the East that Western democracy doesn’t support capitalism and the exploitation of workers and employees. Or at least that is what I believe.

Today most communist countries in the world are gone and have failed as a form of society. So western democracy does not have to prove to the communist East anymore that they are helpful to their workers and employees. I feel the power of companies has increased, and workers rights get taken away slowly. That they do it slowly makes it difficult for workers to see through companies schemes.

And companies show us a compelling reasoning for taking away rights: “If we do not take away that worker’s right our company will lose profit, and that will end in you losing your job.” No one can afford to lose their job, so most of us put up with what’s coming our way.

The latest example in Great Britain is the so-called living wage which is supposed to give workers a better income and therefore a better financial situation. However, most companies level the higher cost in basic wages out with taking away benefits like higher Sunday pay, higher pay for working unsocial hours (night shifts), paid breaks and free food. At the same time, they make out they are beneficial to their workers.

I believe this is wrong. I do deserve to have a wage that enables me to pay my bills and have enough to eat. But I also deserve some extra payments when I have to work unsocial hours like nights or Sundays. In my opinion, that should not be waged against my basic pay. Especially not as politicians, CEO’s and other high profile professionals get paid exorbitant pay, rises and NOT get their benefits cut. On average in the UK, 100 FTSE bosses get paid 130 times more than their average employees. No matter how much profit or losses a company makes, their bosses get more money while their employees get money and rights taken away.

As a member of the union, I had the chance to vote for or against the pay deal the company I work for offered and I voted against it because I think it is wrong to take away paid breaks and Sunday payments. That is a right Unions fought for, and I believe it is a waste of their sacrifices to let these perks slip away. Most of my fellow union members and workers did not seem to think like that. They only seem to have seen a rise in basic pay by a “brilliant” 20%. The pay deal went through.

And I suspect the reason for it is the fact that they do not know enough of the history of the unions and the sacrifices workers before us made to give us our rights. They consider these not as rights but as perks the company was good enough to give to us. They also do not seem to be aware of how unfair the pay situation is in the UK (and elsewhere I suspect). And they seem to think you can’t do anything about it anyway. However, I believe, you can.

First of all, you have to see that even though you are employed, you have rights, and you need to know your rights. In one employment, I have heard a boss say to an employee with mental health problems that it does not matter how an employee feels they have to come to work because they get paid. So just because I get paid by a company they can ask of me whatever they want? I do not think so. But you only do something about this if you are aware that you have the right to stay at home when you are ill. And you can do something about this in a much more powerful way if you are a member of the union and have others stay behind you and at your side to fight for your right.

So secondly become a member of the Union. They teach you about your rights, and they help you if your rights are endangered. Of course, no Union or union movement is perfect. There are always problems and their members and officials are just humans like all of us. But when it comes down to it, they have, and they will help you to gain your rights.

And the more members a union has, the more powerful it is. I can only repeat that because it is really quite simple.

So what do you think? Are Trade Unions still important and are you a member?

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Resources:

The Union Makes Us Strong

Striking-Women.org

The Guardian: Employers claw back Living Wage in cuts to perks, hours and pay

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0 thoughts on “Topic Tuesday ~ More Thoughts on Trade Unions

  1. Dear Bee I know I am late to the party with this comment but I can only snatch a few minutes here and there theses days to blog! No doubt as I have only just opened my computer the hubby will return with his Mum, 96 yrs and his Aunt 92 yrs ! we have them for the day!

    Now what I really want to say is. My father was a union man all through his working life and he took it very seriously. He was a member of the NUVB The nation Union of Vehicile Builders here is a wiki link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Union_of_Vehicle_Builders .

    He was a shop steward and his youth he was working at Morris Cowley Oxford . There was trouble about conditions and pay and he was busy in negotiations with management. To cut a long story short he was talking the men into going out on strike when he received a letter telling him he needed to stop the strike as the firm intended to bring in Black Leg labour from Ireland and sack any man out on strike. My dad was sent this information in confidence and told he could not disclose the reason for abandoning the strike. Somehow he managed to talk the men back round to not striking. All this happened in the 1930s and I have only given you the bare bones of the story.
    My dad was a young Irish immigrant and while he was in Oxford he met my Mum who was an English protestant from a well to do family. She even owned her own hairdressing salon. You can imagine the stir their marriage caused.

    They moved to London and had a family …. I was the youngest of a long line . Dad worked for London Transport for the rest of his working days as a body maker, upholstering the seats on Buses and Tubes. He was a union man all his life. He was a shop steward, and a Trades Union Congress delegate. Most of our summer holidays were worked around whichever seaside resort the annual congress was being held at. Dad at the meetings all day while Mum made sure we had fun on the sands or the parks …or kept dry when it rained … this is England.

    There was always a steady stream of men visiting my Dad of an evening , the front room ( the dining room) of our council house was Dad’s Office and we all knew not to disturb him when he was busy, typing letters for people or sitting face to face with them discussing their union problems. I remember well, knocking on the door to say night night to Dad and seeing one or two strangers sat in the small room, it was a common occurrence.

    Most nights he worked late but every morning he was up at 5am to have his porridge then he would catch the works bus which came by at 6am to take him to Aldenham where he worked on the Buses and Tubes. here is anther link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldenham_Works
    He was home around 5.30pm he listened to the 6pm news then had his dinner the after all was cleared away he started his union work.

    There were pluses he and Mum used to go to into the city (we lived in the London suburbs) to Congress House for a dinner Dance. I always thought my Mum look like a queen all dress up, a sight we did not often see.

    When Dad retired, on his last day at work he was escorted from the factory by colleagues, walking the length of the factory floor accompanied to the sound of every worker banging hammers or whatever they had to hand a testament to what they thought of him. After his retirement Dad continued to help people as a union rep until he had a stroke and could no longer do anything to help anyone least of all himself.

    My Dad must of helped so many people and I am so very proud of him . I did not mean to go on so but your posts on the unions have brought a lot of my dad back to me thirty yeas after his death!

    here is a poem I wrote about my Dad. https://willowdot21.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/a-quiet-man-3/

    and for good measure my Mum https://willowdot21.wordpress.com/2013/06/19/gentle-she-was-2/

    I did not mean to go on so , I hope this is not boring.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bee Halton says:

      Hi Willow, thank you so much for sharing your memories. It is your father and all the others that have fought for our rights at work and I believe we cannot let that just slip away just because we are too lazy or to greedy to join the union! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this post!

      Liked by 1 person

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