Last week’s blog was about the need for unions. This week we look at the other side, if I’m a manager how can a union help me?
Labor costs are much easier to forecast in budgets and are more accurate which can be very beneficial not just to management but to shareholders as well. No one likes bad surprises, especially shareholders, and a unionized environment helps managers plan better and reduce those negative surprises. Since labor agreements cover a large part of the workforce, and usually over multiple years, labor costs can be projected into the future with more accuracy because pay and benefits are negotiated and will remain the same throughout the life of the contract. In addition, when benefits are negotiated for one part of the workforce, it sometimes results in the same for non-bargaining staff. It can be very difficult to determine with any accuracy what the labor costs will be in a non-unionized setting since pay rates and benefits can be wide open for each individual worker.
Wages and raises are agreed to during bargaining sessions for the group of workers under the labor agreement. This makes it easier than dealing with every individual and their pay issues. Again, because labor agreements are normally done for multiple years, it reduces the amount of time devoted to wage and benefit issues. Pay ranges are outlined in the labor contract which eliminates any secrecy or fear of employees learning about everybody’s pay. While some may argue the pay system is unfair to above average performers, determining those performers can sometimes be subjective. It can sometimes be seen like the old saying, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Those who receive pay increases may or may not be entitled. Sometimes the performance can be mediocre at best and a raise will still be given when it shouldn’t be.
There is one voice in a unionized setting versus multiple voices in a non-union setting. Management representatives know who the contact person is on the union side who can speak for the workforce as a whole. It takes less time and is much more efficient than having to talk to many individuals or trying to decide who the best person is to contact. This can help with any issues or changes that can occur within an organization and, likewise, if union leadership learns of any problems from the workforce, that leader can bring them to the attention of management instead of in a non-unionized setting where several workers may have different interpretations of what’s occurring, bring up multiple problems or not bring anything up because of fear of retaliation.
Workers are usually more skilled and better trained. Unions can work with management to encourage worker training or, in some cases, unions will share in encouraging, coordinating and paying for training. Apprenticeship programs are an example of training in unionized environments. Apprenticeship provides workers with jobs and training. It allows organizations to have a ready skilled workforce but also provides a workforce that is up-to-date on skill levels.
Less turnover. In unionized organizations there is less turnover which reduces hiring needs and reduces the costs associated with turnover which can lead to bigger profit margins. In addition, it can also relate to the first point, it helps with budgets as these organizations are more stable. Productivity can be higher because people are more experienced and know their jobs. It can also help provide quality products and services to customers.
Employees are more satisfied because they do have a voice in the organization. As we have blogged over and over again, the more people are involved in the workplace the greater the satisfaction. Many employees can provide some very good ideas that help organizations be more competitive and profitable.
These are just some of reasons why unions can help both management and organizations. There are many other examples out there that we have blogged about or will blog about another time. Executives and managers will identify many reasons as to why they are against unions but one of the major complaints comes down to they are unwilling to build a relationship with the union and the workforce. Just like building a relationship with customers so is it important to do so with employees. Building relationships is a major factor in how unions will work with management. The interest-based process we have blogged about in the past is an excellent process for labor and management to work through the issues that impact them. It all can depend on leadership but, overall, unions actually do help management and organizations.