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TYPES OF TRADE UNIONS IN THE UK

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1. Read and translate the text.

A trade union is an organisation that employees can join in order to have their interests and goals better represented. Workers will pay an annual subscription and in return will have their interests more powerfully represented than if they had to negotiate with employers on their own.

Traditionally trade unions used to focus their attention on obtaining a good standard of pay for their members but more recently unions are concentrating on protecting the individual rights of their members. This may mean providing legal and financial support and advice for members who feel their employer has discriminated against them or dismissed them unfairly. There are four main types of trade unions as outlined below.

Craft unions.Most craft unions were formed during the 19th century to organize groups of skilled workers within a particular trade or craft, such as engineers or carpenters. Craft unions continue to attract skilled workers who may feel that they have more in common with workers of the same skill, rather than other workers in the same factory. There are two problems associated with craft unions: firstly, wage bargaining becomes complicated when many small unions representing groups of skilled workers are involved; secondly, inter-union disputes concerning relative wage levels, and ‘demarcation’ disputes over the allocation of work between groups of workers, are much more likely to occur. These problems weaken the trade union movement as a whole, and weaken the unions’ bargaining position with management, who are able to play on inter-union rivalry. The major craft unions in Britain are the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (AUEW) and the Electrical, Electronic, Telecommunications and Plumbing Union (EEPTU).

General unions.Many general unions were formed during the late 19th century to organize the semi-skilled and unskilled workers, who could not join the craft unions. General unions do not confine themselves to one craft or industry and are able to recruit large numbers of workers from wide areas of industry; the sheer volume of members can make such unions very powerful. However, the large number of different groups within such unions can be a source of weakness if some workers pursue sectional interests, or if a conflict arises between different groups of workers within the union. The major general unions are the GMB and the Transport and General Workers’ Union (TGWU).



Industrial unions.Industrial unions attempt to organize the workers in one industry into a single body. This type of union is common in the United States and Germany, and has several advantages. Collective bargaining is simplified as management has a single union to negotiate with. Furthermore, inter-union and demarcation disputes are unlikely to occur, and workers can present a united front to management. The major problem experienced by these unions is that some workers feel that their sectional interests may be submerged within the union, and this may cause disputes within the union, or may discourage workers from joining an industrial union. For example, although the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) sought to represent all railway workers, many drivers are members of the craft-based union Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF).

White collar unions.The first white collar unions were formed at the turn of the 20th century, as employment expanded in the white collar occupations such as teaching, shop work and office work. Traditionally, many white collar workers shunned union membership as they considered that they had more in common with management than the blue collar union members. Added to this, the better pay and working conditions of the white collar workers reduced the need for union representation. Today, however, the white collar unions represent the fastest growing sector within the trade union movement. The improvements in pay and working conditions which have been obtained by the white collar unions, together with the growing insecurity of employment in these occupations, have encouraged many white collar workers to become union members. The largest white collar unions are UNISON and National Union of Teachers (NUT).

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2. Write out all the word combinations with the word ‘union’ from the text, translate and memorise them.

3. Find the English equivalents for the following phrases in the text:

1) вести переговоры; 2) переговоры о размере заработной платы; 3) преследовать узко профессиональные интересы; 4) споры между профсоюзами; 5) различные отрасли промышленности; 6) избегать членства в профсоюзе; 7) привлечь квалифицированных рабочих; 8) иметь много общего; 9) единый орган; 10) на рубеже 20 века; 11) профсоюзное движение; 12) переговоры о заключении коллективного договора; 13) ущемлять интересы; 14) распределение работы между работниками; 15) отсутствие гарантированной работы.

4. Use the information from the text to complete the table.

Type of trade union Craft unions General unions Industrial unions White collar unions
First formed        
Members        
Advantages        
Problems        
Major unions        

5. Speak about the types of trade unions in the UK using the table you have filled in.

Unit 3


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