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Describe and critically assess the main challenges faced by trade unions in Britain today - Essay Example

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Describe and critically assess the main challenges faced by trade unions in Britain today

The problems began in 1980s following the entrance of Thatcher into the helm of Britain politics in 1979 and have extended beyond 1990s due to unavoidable social, economic and political changes that altered the labour market in the United Kingdom. Social, economic and political changes in Britain have interfered with the bargaining power of trade unions to champion for better pay, improved working conditions and obstruct alteration of existing pro-employee laws and regulations that protected the employees from unfair treatments of their employers (Heery 2002).
Trade Unions in Britain have increased their efforts to increase it members of to trade unions but it proves a hard nut to crack. This is because the collective bargaining and the union power have been paralyzed. With the current membership decline among the unions, several questions have been raised concerning the impact of unions in the workplace.
The main challenges faced by trade unions in Britain today
The first challenge facing the trade unions in Britain is declining membership. According to Achur (2009), report from the Department for Business Innovation and skills revealed that the number of trade union members who were employed fell by 2.3 percent to 7.1 million members in 2008. Furthermore, there was a further decline of one hundred and sixty five thousand members in 2009. Reducing number of trade union members is disturbing because sustainability of trade unions in future is threatened. Reduction of membership is attributed to changes in various human resources and management practices of many organisations in the United Kingdom. Changes in human resources and management policies introduced practices such as team working, team briefings, quality circles and different profit sharing schemes. The new practices increased the levels commitment of all employees to their organisation. These organisations’ practices have paralyzed trade unions activities because it has made some of the members to withdraw from them. Therefore, trade unions are losing their bargaining power against employers and their influence among the workers is diminishing significantly (Kochan and Lansbury 1997). The second challenge facing the trade unions in Britain is political interference. When Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister in 1979, there were over thirteen million members of the trade union. At that time, trade unions influenced every from work related matters to politics. Thatcher was not happy about it and she chose to weaken them through reforms under the tinder-dry Norman Tebbit. The powerful and militant Trotskyite union leaders were stripped off power and the power was handed over to ordinary members of the union. The Lawson secondary picketing and strike ballots were also changed. As a result, the structure of the trade unions were significantly weakened (Opinion 2011). Since Thatcher’s time, labour laws in Britain have changed. Changes in labour laws have never been friendly to the trade unions. Trade unions have experienced weakening support from the government as politics change. The conservative government also in the United Kingdom enacted policies and legislations that weakened the trade unions. This is evident when conservative government gave management of the organisations authority over the employees through change of labour laws (Waddington 2003). Therefore, the level and capacity ...Show more
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Summary

Statistics revealed that in 1979, membership was estimated to be 13.5 million representing 55 percent density. However, membership declined significantly to 6,780,000 representing 24.7 percent density in 2009 in Britain.The nature of trade unionism in Britain today has encountered troubling changes in the past decades…
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