By: Batumba Tak
The St. Kitts-Nevis Trades & Labour Union
Workers Recognize The Importance Of Trade Unions In Protecting Their Rights
In the words of Pope John Paul 11, 1981, “Their (Unions) task is to defend the existential interests of workers in all sectors there their rights are concerned. The experience of history teaches that organizations of this type are an indispensable element of social life, especially in modern industrialized societies. (Unions) are indeed a mouthpiece for the struggle for social justice, for the just rights of working people in accordance with their individual professions.”
A discussion on the objectives of the Trade Union Movement cannot be better begun than by a quotation from Samuel Gompers, the founder, President of the American Federation of Labour. To quote him:
Trade Unions were born out of the necessity of workers to protect and defend themselves from encroachment, injustice and wrong to protect the workers in their inalienable right to higher and better life; to protect them, not only as equals before the law, but also in their rights to the product of their labour: to protect them, not only as equal before the law, but also in their rights to the product of their labour, to protect their lives, their limbs, their health, their homes, their firesides, their liberties as men, women, as workers, as citizens; to overcome and conquer prejudice and antagonism; to secure them the right to life, and the opportunity to maintain that life, the right to be full sharers in the abundance which is the result of their brain and brawn, and the civilization of which they are the founders and the mainstay.
However, despite all the odds against the Trade Union Movement, including a rise in unemployment, Trade Union membership has seen some increase, reflecting the dire need for Collective Action.
Thus, prompting the Historian to state quite clearly that “Trade Unions” have demonstrated an ability to show that they are the very best available Collective Defense for workers, especially in “Times of need.”
We shall now continue by looking at how workers recognize the importance of Trade Unions in protecting their rights.
The Trade Union Leadership of course, not only recognized the rise in Trade Union membership but also understood that this rise, however, still means that Trade Union membership is below where it was prior to the beginning of the global Financial Crisis in 2008.
The Trade Union Leadership also recognized that because of the recession that took place in the private sector (especially in manufacturing, retail and finance, not to mention small business owners), including the age of austerity in the public sector, which led the huge job cuts and the continued rising unemployment, even a small overall rise in Trade Union membership is a considerable achievement.
However, the plain truth is, recent research has clearly shown that the breakdown of new figures shows that Trade Union membership grew in the private sector, while at the same time in the public sector it is static.
The question that has been asked by a cross section of populace is: “What accounts for the surprise rise in Trade Union membership?”
We look at it this way, first the Trade Union’s ability to show that they are the very best available Collective Defense in times of need.
It has been said many times over and very often by the Industrial Experts that Trade Unions are unable to practically do much if anything at all to prevent redundancies when they have been announced, but just the fear of redundancy and job insecurity is motivating workers/employees to join Trade Unions.
However, more often than not workers/employees fully believe that they were and continue to be targeted to be made redundant because they stand up for their rights and encourage their co-worker to do so as well.