NUPW and the “NEW” Fight in the 21st Century
Are trade unions relevant in today’s society? The National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) would say “Yes” the labour movement is relevant, “Yes” the labour movement is strong and “Yes” the labour movement is significant. Its existence and significance is constantly challenged as workers’ rights and socio-economic democracy are being violated and traditional benefits are under attack. However, there is a new fight knocking on the union’s door, – To STAY RELEVANT!!!
Trade Union Leadership, Globalization and Young Workers have been identified as the “NEW” Fight.
Trade Union Leadership
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines a trade union as “An organization of employees usually associated beyond the confines of one enterprise, established for protecting or improving through collective action, the economic and social status of its members.”
In the past, trade union leaders came from across the Caribbean region when most the islands were suffering under colonial rule and oppression. Leaders such as Alexander Bustamante, Norman Manley, Sir Frank Walcott, Tubal Uriah Bulter, Eric Gairy just to mention a few were pioneers who agitated for improved wages, proper working conditions, better living conditions and other social, economic and political advancements. In order for NUPW to continue to be relevant in today’s society, it must change from a Transactional approach to a more Transformational approach leadership. This new-era leadership style allows the conventional practices to evolve in order to adapt to the changing needs of its membership. The leaders themselves can create an agile vision for a sustainable future in which industrial relations can now include national agendas.
The effect of globalization is having a significant impact on trade unions. The diversification of workers, working conditions and the introduction of new forms of employment terms and conditions have been of most importance in order to enhance the effectiveness of global competitiveness. Furthermore, the increase in labour productivity and service quality are essential elements to this phenomenon. At the same time, globalization has attributed to high unemployment and underemployment in both the private and public sectors.
It is imperative for NUPW to restructure the way it functions to utilize globalization to its advantage with the implementation of new forms of technology and the inclusion of social media to speak out on changes and the affects of globalization. In light of this global phenomenon, the youth need to know that the NUPW is not frozen in time but has and is in the process of embracing this new age.
In recent years a change in the workplace has occurred. The reason- Millennials!!! Young workers are not only part of the change but are the drivers. At the same time employers are finding it difficult to find the right fit for the job; hence, the expression “square pegs in round holes”. NUPW will need to develop a responsive and inclusive strategy to deal with such changes. The changing dynamics of the workforce must be acknowledge by the trade union movement in order to continue being relevant. The NUPW needs to find creative ways to attract young workers so that they become interested in being a part of the union. The union can do so by educating young workers about the advantages of being a part of the union, create attractive benefits for them, implement fresh new ideas that allow expression and development.
The NUPW, needs to work alongside employers to make the environment conducive for young workers because with the influx of young persons in the workplace, the age difference hampers efficiency on the job. Young workers are often marginalized and must overcome more barriers than the older workers to have job security and tenure.
Additionally, the NUPW should push for the use of technology to be implemented given that young workers are well versed and accustomed to utilizing various technological devices. Implementing and creating fresh and new ideas into the workplace makes young works comfortable and enjoy job satisfaction.
Employers need to empower young workers and encourage them to excel as it should be every employer’s imperative to let employees know when they are doing a good job. This results in greater productivity and motivates persons to do their job.
However, young workers also have rights. It is of great importance that they work in a safe environment, and are not subjected to sexual harassment and not discriminated against.
Young workers need a proactive trade union that will act not only on their immediate needs for representation, but is willing to assist with identifying areas which have long term benefits on the workforce. Young workers need a union which listens and addresses their concerns; which is aufait with matters that are unique to them and willing to train them and ensure their voice is heard without fear of victimization.