Trades: 5 Reasons to Join a Trades Union
When you hear about unions on the news, it is often in the context of a strike or a conflict with provincial politicians, but with little to no explanation of what a union is or how unions operate. This leaves many young people entering the workforce confused or unsure about the role of unions and why joining a union can benefit them.
So, what are trade unions? In simple terms, trade unions are legal entities that represent a group of workers and use what is known as “collective bargaining” to argue for the support and treatment of all the union members within the workplace, company, or industry.
Unions are especially important to people working in the trades, and there are many good reasons for tradespeople to seek out and join a trade union.
1. Unions argue for better wages and benefits
Because unions represent a group of workers collectively, they are able to fight for better wages and benefits for the union members, as opposed to individual workers each attempting to fight for their own improvements in pay. Unionized workers typically receive higher wages than non-unionized workers in the same field. Union members also tend to have better pension and severance packages, greater and more flexible sick time and vacation time, better rules around overtime, and an overall better work/life balance than their non-union counterparts.
2. Unions fight for safe and secure working conditions
Many jobs in the trades involve heavy physical activity, industrial machinery and equipment, power tools, electrical systems, and outdoor worksites, all of which have unique health and safety concerns. All workers have the right to be safe in their workplace and safe in the work they are doing. While there is provincial and national Health and Safety legislation in place, unions will also work directly with industries and employers to ensure that union members have safe work environments. For example, unions ensure that workers aren’t putting their safety at risk in an attempt to meet production goals, and support the workers’ right to refuse unsafe work without risking being fired.
3. Unions champion diversity, tolerance, and equality in the workplace
There is a lot of news coverage about problems with equality in the workplace–pay equality between men and women, underrepresentation of racial minorities, and discrimination based on culture, gender, or sexuality, to name a few. Unions are always fighting to improve these problems and ensure that all workers enjoy equal rights in their workplace or industry. This includes flexible maternity and paternity leave, anti-harassment and anti-discrimination programs, equal pay for equal work, and encouraging the hiring of underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities.
4. Unions provide job protection and job security
You’ve probably had a job with a boss you loved; chances are you’ve also had a job with a boss you didn’t like much at all. Many companies change direction quickly these days, under the influence of many business, economic, and political factors. This can mean your great boss is suddenly replaced by someone new with a change in leadership. Sometimes a new boss even comes in and wants to clean house and hire all new staff. Unions provide job security by protecting workers from sudden job loss or significant changes to their employment without reason, and will defend workers’ rights against poor management behaviour and other unfair treatment. Unions will also fight for workers’ rights to training and professional development, and support workers’ advancement in the company through promotion or lateral moves.
5. Unions ensure fair termination and retirement for workers
Very few jobs last a lifetime, but whether you are retiring or get terminated from a job, unions ensure that workers are treated fairly and receive the appropriate severance, compensation, or retirement pension. When it comes to layoffs, unions will make sure that factors such as experience and length of service are taken into consideration when determining who keeps their position, and that any severance packages are fair and reflect the worker’s service and history.