• October 11, 2021
  • Trade Union

Trade unions good or bad?
It is a very sensitive topic: unions and collective bargaining. However, all over the world it is taught as a course in MBA or equivalent. What is there for academicians who write the courses, little do they know the true implication of these two concepts in the real world of business. So most entrepreneurs, CEOs and managers treat these ideas as a leper. History of Nepal is rampant of unions and collective bargaining gone wrong, and companies shutting doors leaving whole communities handicapped for decades let alone the shareholders and employees. Yet we cannot shun away from unions where they already exist and collective bargaining is a modus operandi for policy amendments.  

The rise of unions
A feudal society ruled by elites embarked in the journey of economic development through investment in industries. For decades the old feudal ways worked. Worker’s right? What’s that?  This was the attitude of the bourgeois owners.  

They had no clue that the volcano was not dead, it was dormant and boiling. If only they had at least enough foresight as Adam Smith had in his treatise “Wealth of Nations” where he clearly tells the employers to pay the employees more than enough for their own good. However, there was no desire and thus no scope for a human resource department. This was the sparkle that ignited the concept of union. Due to political interference in Maoist insurgency period, trade union rose in number and prominence in a dramatic way. Why? HR issues such as leave and salary increment was not addressed by the management; employees felt there was no solution for them. Then like a knight in shining armor, the union came, did collective bargaining and solved their problems.  

However this “early union fad” was not really Robbin Hood. Lower level employees suffered more than top level management, although it was meant to be the other way round. The salary structure that was supposed to undergo major overhaul, did not occur. 

Disillusionment eventually occurred and members themselves concluded that, “Basically the union does not care about organization and their employees, but they only care about themselves.”
Current Condition
However, today, trade unions are in phase of professionalism and need more professionalism in further days. They are guided by the sound principle that killing the golden goose won’t help them: “Employees need to care about the organization because as long as the organization exists only they can continue, otherwise not.”

Now unions are doing their jobs and there is healthy collective bargaining like setting up minimum wages rate that kill neither the employee nor the employer.  

Giving unions a good name
Here are some tips for union leaders to re-brand themselves as a peace-makers:
●    Follow the standard process of  collective bargaining as prescribed in any management text: preparation, discussion, proposal, bargaining and final agreement
●    Be familiar and act in congruence with concepts of different laws and acts: labor act, trade union act
●    Trade union  is also a part of management so they should be cooperative with management
●    Trade union should not be affiliated to government
●    There should be joint consultation meetings between management and trade union, say, every month where all problems are sorted out so that the environment of organization does not suffer
●    Concept of HR Audit should be developed, which will act as a referee, levering professional pressure to both management and trade union
●    The major problems that need a collaborative solution between management and trade unions are capacity and salary expense for the organization, inflation and living standard for employees. Do not stray on other minor issues too long and too much.