Is a trade union’s primary role to seek wage increases? Or is it to ensure the welfare and well-being of its members and their families? How many trade unions have formed co-operatives for their members? How many have put on training and education programmes to assist their members in getting a better job or better remuneration?
Trade unions have a vested interest in the economic development of a country. Improved eco- nomic conditions will ensure membership increases. But who cares? Aren’t wage increases the solution? Why think about productivity, personal growth, family, re- trenchment, health, education and discipline?
It is my view that decisions which arise from collective bargaining between employer and employee, taking into account the current economic climate at decision-making time, will be more influential than just demanding a wage increase. After all, a trade union’s primary role is to protect the interest of its members and their dependants from exploitation by the employer.
Will trade union members be immune from a country-wide shutdown? Do they have alternatives for electricity, water, food, healthcare, utilities which the non-member cannot access?
Trade unions should resort to dialogue to ensure that their memberships do not decrease through retrenchment, that the country has a healthy economic climate, which their members can benefit from, that they (unions) participate in meaningful reform of the working environment, and that their policies and programmes can withstand scrutiny both locally and internationally. They should also begin to budget for meaningful assistance to their members in times of need.
In this age of technological advancements and local and global economic challenges, trade unions must evolve. They must partner with their members and not represent them from a distance. They should be an integral part of their members’ lives.
Everyone wins with this maturity: The country through improved productivity, the trade unions through sustained and increased membership, and the worker through better jobs and working conditions.
Vinegar never catches the fly but honey does.