Many of you might have heard the terms trade union or trade unions. A legal entity formed of people usually belonging to same profession and having common interests is called a union. These people are usually workers or businessmen of a particular industry. The purpose of the union is to safeguard the common interest and rights of the members of that union. A union has the power to advocate and negotiate their terms of employment such as salary, working hours, overtime etc as well as benefits and other contract details. Examples of unions are labor unions, clerk unions, trade unions and even student unions.

The structure, autonomy and strength of the trade unions vary from region to region significantly. There are generally three aspects of a trade union; purpose, membership and autonomy. All of these depend on the economical conditions and political system of the particular country. Their mode of negotiation also varies as such.  One of the more popular forms of negotiation in many regions is collective bargaining. The autonomous movement of the trade unions can be observed these regions. Along with social negotiation, trade unions also try to influence the administrative as well as political processes and bodies in the region.

The membership of a trade union is usually subjected to the employment or profession as described by labor laws of the particular area. In many regions, people belonging from certain class are not authorized for the membership of trade unions. These may include part-timers, civil servants, military officers, self-employed, retired persons, unemployed and so on. Often there is a central organization that regulates and brings together all the local unions. One such organization is the European Trade Union Confederation, also known as ETUC. It synchronizes the trade unions throughout European Union.

The activities and functions of trade unions have always been debatable as well as controversial to some extent. The protection of union rights and the level of autonomy of the unions are often the bone of contention among administration and management. Although the main function of the trade union is to safeguard the rights and improve the working conditions of the labor and workforce. However, many unions have been accused of using negative tactics, politics and monopoly to fulfill their unfair interests and demands. Trade unions often enforce strikes and shutdown their employer organization to get their demands fulfilled. Another function of the trade unions is to promote the legislation that is in favor of their members and workers on the whole.

Trade unions are often invited to court hearings pertaining to the verdict of a legislation concerning their rights or interests. Trade unions have actively been working for workers. They are responsible for initiating several programs and provisions for the prosperity of workers such as retirement and old age benefits, pensions, and help in funeral expenses unemployment and ill health. The members of trade unions get special benefits apart from the aforementioned. Trade unions also elect their executive members and leaders through voting of the members.

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