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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