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Union: The advantages and disadvantages of the organization

Without trade unions, many workers' rights would hardly have been enforced in the past. This is still true today, even though membership numbers are falling: Young people in particular are foregoing employee representation without knowing the advantages and disadvantages of trade unions.

Union membership: more pros than cons

The tasks of trade unions are diverse. For example, you take care of

  • A fair distribution of corporate profits
  • The quality of education
  • equal rights
  • Entitlement to wages and paid vacation
  • Regulated working hours
  • environmental Protection

Despite these advantages, trade unions have been complaining about a decline in membership in their ranks for years. In the German Federation of Trade Unions, or DGB for short, the number of members has now slipped below six million. In 1988 the organization still had almost eight million members (source: “Union without members”, Jörg Becker). At the same time, new unions were founded during this period: The cockpit pilots' association, for example, or the Marburger Bund (representing the interests of clinicians).

Individual trade unions represented in the German Federation of Trade Unions:

  • IG Metall
  • Ver.di
  • IG building, agriculture, environment
  • Education and Science Union
  • Union of Food, Enjoyment, Restaurants
  • Police Union (GdP)
  • EVG
  • IG mining, chemistry, energy

Reasons for fewer members

The reasons for the decline in membership are, for example, the retirement of members: Due to the aging in Germany, more members die than new ones join. In addition, many women and men leave the union when they retire. Although this ensures a rejuvenation of the workforce. According to the Cologne Institute for Economic Research, only twelve percent of the under 30s are unionized

Other reasons for losing members:

  • Unemployment: Higher unemployment results in workers leaving their union.
  • Increase in the cost of living / decreasing purchasing power: Due to decreasing purchasing power, many employees save on their monthly expenses. This also includes the membership fees for the union.
  • Other forms of employment: More and more workers are in the low-wage sector or work part-time. You have been hired on a temporary basis, are contract workers or sole proprietors. The union then does not play a role.
  • Individualization of the individual: The increasingly individualistic society is moving away from large organizations.
  • Trade unions do not adapt to the world of work: Trade unions are accused of being out of date: In the past few decades, expanding sectors have emerged (service and IT sectors). the unions have largely missed this development.

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Union: Members have secure jobs

Clear advantage for union members: in the event of disputes affecting labor law issues, they are protected by their union. It is therefore always worth founding a union.

An example: When it comes to layoffs, the responsible union can help. This is because union members are entitled to free legal advice under labor law. You can therefore counter a termination more successfully than non-members.

If the legal dispute goes to court, a lawyer also represents his client before the judge. According to the Verdi union, the financial risk for employers also increases if they want to fire a union member: the entrepreneur not only has to deal with a lengthy legal dispute, but may also have to pay higher and more frequent severance payments. Therefore, it is said, employees without union membership cards would prefer to be fired.

Conversely: Workplaces for unionized employees are safer, says Verdi. The study “Trade Union Membership and Dismissals” (authors: Laszlo Goerke and Markus Pannenberg) also came to this conclusion. According to this, the risk of being fired is 1.3 percent for union members and 3.6 percent for non-members. Employees should not fear being exposed to reprisals by the employer if they join. Printing or even resigning for union membership is illegal.

Disadvantages of trade unions: They are manageable

The job of trade unions is to assert workers' interests by negotiating wage increases, good collective agreements, better working conditions and much more. While the advantages of being a member of a trade union are obvious, the disadvantages for employees are not readily apparent: the membership fee is around one percent of gross income. Many employees can get over this amount.

In many places, membership of a union is seen as a career killer. The question of the sense of membership must certainly be asked if the employee is part of the top management in a company or holds another leading position. Ultimately, company management builds on the loyalty of their managers and see strikes through trade unions as a breach of trust.

Nevertheless: Membership cannot be forbidden. A disadvantage, however, can be that contracts concluded with the participation of the union are binding for all employees. That means: Even non-members have to accept the results of collective bargaining. With regard to the right to strike, this could cause tension between employees in the company. In the event of a strike, non-trade unionists often incur the wrath of the workforce in the company if they still work as strike breakers.

Conclusion - advantages and weaknesses

Being a member of a union has more advantages than disadvantages for employees. Employees benefit in many ways. However, only if the union is assertive and vehemently defends its demands.

Author: editorial staff personal knowledge

Frequently asked questions about union pros and cons

Do unemployed people pay the same amount as working union members?

Most unions charge one percent of gross monthly wages as a membership fee. There are special tariffs for the unemployed.

What good is a union if the company is not bound by collective bargaining agreements?

If a union has many members, a collective agreement can be enforced even if a company is not a member of the employers' association.

Are there any advantages to being a member of a union as a temporary worker?

Yes, because here too there are a number of collective agreements that have been negotiated between employers' associations and the trade unions. The contracts deal, among other things, with framework conditions, classifications, minimum hourly wages, allowances and deferred compensation.

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