The CIPD’s recent report, Managing employee relations in difficult times, concluded that dealing with the trade union relationship remains an issue in many workplaces but is not widely seen as problematic. Trade union influence is still an everyday reality for some, but continues to decline across the wider economy. Around 6.4 million employees in the UK were trade union members in 2014, a number that has been in consistent decline since its peak of 13 million in 1979.
A trade union is an organisation consisting of workers whose main purpose is the regulation of relations between workers and their employers.
In some industries, negotiated collective agreements exist relating to pay and terms of employment, and in some circumstances those agreements can also form part of the workers’ contracts of employment. A collective agreement may not always be enforceable between the union and the employer. However, the terms of a collective agreement may become incorporated into an individual employee’s contract of employment, and so themselves become terms and conditions of employment.
Generally, once the terms of a collective agreement are incorporated into a contract of employment, they become terms of the contract and in some cases can remain in force even if the original collective agreement terminates.
Employers are prevented from offering inducements to their employees not to be a member of a trade union, not to take part in the activities of a trade union, not to make use of the services of a trade union and not to give up the right to have their terms and conditions of employment determined by a collective agreement.
Further protection is provided to ensure that employees should not suffer detrimental actions for being a union member or using a union’s services.