What is a Union?
In general terms a union is a group of individuals who acknowledge their common interests/aims and pool their resources, expertise and strength to influence outcomes and effect change in the interests of the members who belong.
It is a completely legitimate aim to collectivise or unionise so as to influence outcomes and change in your own interests. Free trade unions are a fundamental aspect of a democratic society, along with an independent judiciary and free media.
Despite the individual focus in our society as a whole, when you unpick it, progress and change happens when people collaborate and work collectively together for the good of everyone. Individuals have a role to play within the objectives of the whole collective i.e. the union, their communities and wider society.
Why Join a Union?
When you get organised collectively you are acknowledging that within your workplace, sector or the “global economy” there are groups and agendas whose interests and power are working against your interests.
No-one understands this better than employers. Employers are some of the most organised and well-resourced groups in the country. They belong to Federated Farmers, Employers Federation, Chambers of Commerce, the Business Round Table, Business New Zealand etc and their membership of ‘unions’ proportionately far exceeds that of workers who belong to trade unions.
Despite the partnership rhetoric and dominant view within business, workers interests do not directly overlap with those of their employers. Even the issues that are of mutual interest are not common interests for the same aim or purpose. For example, workers want pay systems so as to improve their wages and conditions. Employers want pay systems to have predictability and to buy labour at the cheapest price so as to maximise profit.
Workers in real terms have more in common with each other than they do with the employer, yet they are constantly asked to see their circumstances predominantly from the perspective of their employer as though a workers viewpoint and interests are not a legitimate aspect of our social and economic framework.
Paid employment is one of the most significant aspects of the majority of our lives, yet in real terms very few workers understand the dynamics of their employment relationships and their rights, or how to make the most of their interests and a share of what they generate within the employment relationship, whether that be profits or community services or support.