Should you join a work union ?
I’d like to talk a little about a situation that has arisen at work recently, regarding working conditions . This expands into working life for everyone in all walks of life and why we should preserve respect to employees.

The problem I observed recently was because of pay. General annual pay raises were to be abolished for the next year because of the recent economic problems. I was invited to a union meeting to hear about this issue. There was no reason to cut costs on salaries as incoming work with the company was strong. The union has stated it will fight for a fair pay review.
In the union meeting, non-members were asked to join, or get out. And I, along with 2 others, walked out. Did I not want a pay raise? Did I not want to be treated fairly by the company?

The reason I didn’t join was because I didn’t believe it would make a difference. Would one person’s support make a difference in this situation? Would I see a difference whether I joined or not? My feeling to this is that the staff will see a pay rise or not regardless of my participation. So I stand to benefit either way. However, if I join, I have to pay a monthly subscription based on my salary. So if I did join and that one membership did make the difference, the increase in salary would have to be higher than the cost of membership to not make a loss. Based on the price of the membership, I am not confident of this occuring.
Another issue is that I don’t personally see an issue with the lack of a general pay increase. I have never had any sizeable pay increase in any of my previous jobs for doing the same job and I believe that, after tax, any increase would be barely noticeable to my standard of living, so why is it an issue whether I get it or not?
If I did have an issue with salary, then of course I would want to take actions to get it increased. I would ask my manager for a salary increase, based on my performance and what benefits I  bring to the company. I would climb the ladder, go find another job which pays more with my new level of experience from this job. If I had reached the limit to what this type of job can offer, I would look further afield into different areas or supplement my experience by acquiring knowledge and skills in new areas.

But then after some thinking about this decision later on, I came to realise how selfish this decision was and how in fact it does not benefit me at all…

So let’s think about a corporate organisation. An organisation is a group of people. A group of people achieve more than what is possible by individuals. It then seems more beneficial for us all if we all work together. When it comes to companies, they employ many people to do specialised jobs which together achieve much more. The job diversity created allows people like me as a computer programmer to contribute to much larger scale projects than what I could on my own.

Now we have a company which is big enough to be recognisable and has customers all over the world. Iconic brand images which we all know and love such as Sony, McDonald’s and Vodafone. These corporate identities take a life of their own, each fighting in their own domains for survival and superiority. Each company must compete by being leaner, faster, cheaper, better than others in its field in this cut-throat business world, or it will be superseded by the company which beat them to it.

The way companies strive to survive and expand is by exploiting resources to its gain. Using brand image, intellectual property and utilising its skilled workforce pushes the company ahead. Of course they must do this, as this maintains their survival and we need the companies to be healthy in order to keep our jobs. But what if the company starts to abuse its resources and push them too far?…

The example of no pay increase is evidence of this. In order to maintain the company’s superiority, every part of the company’s resources are squeezed. But this is good, right? If the company is better than the competition, then it does better and because we work for them, we are doing fine? Well its not so good if our working standards as individuals drop to support this goal. After all, the whole purpose of organisations are to help increase the standards of living for the individuals.

Lets say I don’t like the unchanged salary and I move somewhere else to work. I move to big software company who offer a slightly higher wage. However, last financial year, they decided not to entitle 30 days annual leave, but rather 15. And they can only be taken according to HR’s planning schedule. It turns out that the workers who were not happy with this had left the company. And so it goes around and around; the companies impose more strict working conditions, the workers move to other places with even more strict conditions. Pretty soon every company in that field can get away with anything. I know this to be true with computer games companies, as some I’ve heard of don’t pay overtime or weekend work; this is the “nature of the job”

So the individualist attitude is detrimental to us as individuals. We all stand to suffer if we only think of ourselves, thinking we can just leave if unfavourable conditions come our way. And so my reason to join the union. Whilst it doesn’t help my current situation (in fact it will most likely decrease my net salary) this event has shown me that conditions could stand to get a whole lot worse, regardless of which company I work for, in ways other than just salary. Unions are there to prevent, or at least slow down this process.

Unions come at a cost, but without them we stand to lose much more.

Please let me know what you think of this by leaving a comment or sending me an email.

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