The pros and cons of a unionized workplace

HR professionals are rarely ones to encourage organized labour but could the system still hold value in a modern workplace?

HR professionals are rarely ones to encourage organized labour but could the system still hold some value in a modern workplace? One HR manager with experience in a unionized environment says that – believe it or not – there are some potential benefits.

Pros

“When there is an agreement in place – provided it’s written well and there is no grey area left for interpretation – there is clarity around working hours, what’s considered overtime, etc.,” admits Alice Lesmana.

“And all parties are ‘forced’ to ‘stick’ to the contractual agreement so there is no ambiguity or threshold for an employer to treat employees differently or have any bias,” she adds.

Of course working in a unionized environment undoubtedly has its down sides too. Here, Lesmana outlines the biggest difficulties that HR professionals will likely face when dealing with organized labour.

Union leadership

According to Lesmana, one of the major challenges HR professionals may have to face in a unionized environment is dealing with “an incompetent union chief steward who has the mentality that it’s ‘union working against management.”

This outdated approach, she says, often accompanies a sense of entitlement and a belief that the employee is always right in every situation.

She also noted that some union chief stewards are unable or unwilling to handle first-step grievance directly with an employer.

“It results in a poor relationship between the employer and the employee because it allows the worker to form a perception that they are always right,” she explains.

Business agents

Incompetent business agents can also be a source of strife for HR professionals, says Lesmana.

Ones who are on the extreme side when ‘advocating’ for their employee even though they know employees are sometimes at fault can cause headaches for HR, she warns.

“The business agent will need to be balanced when dealing with employer and employee,” she stressed.

Contracts

“Once something gets in the contract, employers are often not able to remove it,” warns Lesmana, who suggests HR professionals should always consult legal before including something in a contract.


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