There are four main types of trade unions.
I. Craft unions:
These represent workers with particular skills e.g. plumbers and weavers. These workers may be employed in a number of industries.
II. General unions:
These unions include workers with a range of skills and from a range of industries.
III. Industrial unions:
These seek to represent all the workers in a particular industry, for instance, those in the rail industry.
IV. White collar unions:
These unions represent particular professions, including pilots and teachers. Unions in a country, often belong to a national union organisation. For example, in India, a number of unions belong to the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC).
This is the oldest and one of the largest trade union federations in the country. A number of them also belong to international trade union organisations such as the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, which has more than 230 affiliated organisations in 150 countries.
Role of Unions:
Unions carry out a number of functions. They negotiate on behalf of their members on pay scales, working hours and working conditions. These areas can include basic pay, overtime payments, holidays, health safety, promotion prospects, maternity and paternity rights and job security.
Depending on the circumstances, unions may try to protect or improve workers’ rights. They also provide information on a range of issues for their members, for instance on pensions. They help with education and training schemes and may also participate in measures designed to increase demand for the product produced and hence for labour.
Some also provide a range of benefits to their members including strike pay, sickness pay and unemployment pay. In addition many get involved in pressurizing their governments to adopt a legislation, which will benefit their members or workers in general, such as fixing a national minimum wage.
An individual worker may not have the skill, time or willingness to negotiate with her or his employer. A worker is also likely to have limited bargaining power. If she or he presses for a wage rise or an improvement in working conditions, the employer may be able to dismiss her or him and take on someone as a replacement. Unions enable workers to press their claims through collective bargaining. This process involves negotiations between union officials, representing a group of workers, and representatives of employers.