BUSINESS ETHIC ESSAY What role do Unions play in business and is that role both useful and important? . A market is a way of cordoning and organising economic agents’ activity. The market permits a certain balance between demands and needs. Liberal economists consider the market as being the “best way of economical coordination if both clients and companies (Business) are hugely present. The different actors one could meet in the market are, of course, clients and business; but also some defence organisms of those two first: Unions. In facts, it is important to consider them when studying the market place. It appears as logical that protection organisms exist but their actions may sometimes be doubtful. We will deal in this essay with the role that Unions play in business and will see if their role is both useful and important.
To understand the existing link between business and unions, it is suitable to study the subject in two parts: a first one explaining the role both businesses and unions may have in the market, and a second one wondering if the actions of unions really fit their goals. I)Business and Unions, both principal actors of markets. A – Business, goals and risks In economics, a business is recognized as being an organisation which is shaped to provide goods and/or services to customers and whose goal is making money, and, through this, creating profits and increasing its owners’ wealth.
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Through making money, the supposed role of a business is creating value to reinvest in the market thanks to the salary they give to employees; the workers will then pay back in consumption (food, services, New Technologies of Information and Communication, leisure or holidays) and thus, assuring the well balance of the marketplace. A company owner’s goal may be wider than creating cash; it could also correspond to the fifth level of Maslow pyramid: self actualisation.
Having our proper company may makes us feel important for the market functioning and gives us the feeling we succeeded in building something. Thus, the boss will act honestly in order to make things go well and employee feel at ease so that they can work the same way sport teams go (all together in the same way, hands in hands) Although the traditional image we have of a business’ owner as being a “plump guy, smoking big cigars and making money on his employees” back is passed; from the moment on we talk about money, no one could be blindly trusted and it becomes legitimate asking questions.
In fact, the recent example we had with the French bank “Societe Generale” hiding and stealing 5 billions ??? is another example of the (extreme) abuses that could be done. Financial risks and bad repartition of incomes are not the only dangers, others dark sides of a business exist: moral abuses. In order to face the risks the vicious circle of profits’ seeking a business may imply, organisations have been built, organisations whose goal is to prevent and protect the different actors that play a role in the market, employees such as company’s owners: Unions.
Union’s action may also serve consumers (if the service or good provided by suppliers does not correspond to what is promised, and so expected) or bosses: abuses exist in both ways; it is to say employees enjoying the system not to supply the efforts they are paid to (the French example of the SNCF enjoying ,until few months ago, of advantages such as working less time than in the private sector or having a financial help to wash their clothes – dating from the time machinists had to clean their dresses because they were working with coal ??? and allowing themselves going on strike to protect those advantages that were logical decades ago but which are no more, is the example that some company need help to protect themselves). B ??? Unions, a way of reaching goals and facing risks. “Together, we are stronger! ” For this, a union aims at grouping people in order to give them more strength and appears as being the main alternative to ensure compromises between the different actors the markets deal with. Different kinds of unions exist, not only linked to labour conditions: Students unions, joint ownership unions, (inter)communal, initiative or financial unions, even the Mafias could be called as crime unions.
All this groups of persons aim at defending students’, hunters’, fishers’, tourists’, preachers’, owners’, cards players’, moustaches wearers’ or countries’ interests and rights, being sure that no one is left behind. As far as business is concerned, it is suitable speaking of Trade Unions or Labour Unions. They are used to be structured toward the following way: The first step may be composed of skilled workers (called craft Unionism), workers from various trades (general unionism) or of all workers in a particular industry (industrial unionism) as in the movie we saw in class. Those assemblies are then grouped in national federations which are themselves united into international federations such as the International Union Trade Federation.
It is also important to notice that a union may acquire the status of “juristic person” in order to help better who need them on a juridical point of view. Labour unions’ action may overwhelm a lot of domains: Wages, work rule, complaint procedures, rules governing hiring, firing and promotion of workers, benefits, workplace safety and policies When talking about Unions, the first thing in which we think is fight: boss against employees, strong versus weak is the old image we all have of unions. Why do we all think in antagonism of interests when talking of a corporation? We nowadays have to consider that things are changing: in fact, one could think about a company not as an opposition of interests’ “deciders-doers” but as a place where collaboration is possible. Both heads nd workers of a business may act in a same way, in order to increase the results of the company and the influence it may have on the market. The deciders must not be seen as simple chiefs anymore but as leaders whose goal is to mix human and business interests. For a company, unions may act on different points We so must forget (or at least reconsider) unions as a tool of contestation but as a mean to make things go forward. II)Do the actions of unions really fit their goals? A – Are union’s actions useful? Agreeing or not with the principle of unions, one can not say that unions are not useful. Defending people’s rights is always a useful action.
They may serve the companies’ leaders as well as the workers For example, in small and medium-sized firms, the labour-unions actions are done thanks to the staff delegates. Those persons who work really close to the rest of the employees can give advices to the responsible, advices that are close to the needs of the company, and so useful advices (re-thinking in the organization of working time for a certain period for example). This is the role unions play in Nordic countries for example, where the most part of the work force takes part in unions that make things go forward. It is thanks to Unions that France has its “conges payes”, a huge advance for workers’ rights.
Unions’ actions may also be useful when there are abuses from an employer. When having the power, people may act in a selfish way: for example, an employer refusing giving an employee his day off several times, and does not pay him furthermore is an abuse that happen. The child labour is something unions are working on ending and lack of security: employing children to pay less is totally illegal and not normal; not respecting securities measures in order to save money is also something that needs to be fight (risking people’s health or lives to win money in obviously something unethical) B – Are union’s actions ethical? At first sight, yes. Defending people’s interests is something ethical.
Not letting children working against their will is something ethical. Fighting against abuses is ethical. The problem that occurs is that “Unions are sometimes accused of holding society to ransom by taking strike actions that result in the disruption of public services”. (Wikipedia) In some European countries with a high rate of Unions members, unions’ actions tend to be more useful than “holding the society to ransom The 10 countries that go the most on strike Countries19952001 1France5 883 200 1 807 250 2Spain1 457 1001 802 360 3Italy909 3001 005 430 4United Kingdom414 700525 100 5Belgium100 200142 620 6Ireland 130 300114 610 7Finland869 42060 650 Denmark197 31059 500 9Holland 691 48045 100 10Portugal62 87041 480 To underline the abuses that unions could be done, let’s take the French example: France is the country that has the slightest unions-members rate of all developed countries (7%) and has the highest number of stroked days. When talking about Sweden, the union-members are 91% and the country does not appear in the board. 80% for Denmark and 32% for England In France, the stroked days tend to rise in the public sector and decrease in the private one. More than 70% of strikes are leaded by public workers… The French problem is that unions do not seek negotiation, they are looking for confrontation.
On the French trades unions’ websites, the worlds “lutte” (fight) is written 10 times on the CGT’s first page, Forces Ouvriere tells to its web surfers bosses are only looking for abusing from them and stealing their money, using words such as “abuses”, “confrontation”, “fight” and other words owning to the violence and rebellion lexical field. Conclusion: Unions are useful from several points of views: from the workers’ one, of course, where they can help defending staff in case of abuses, giving them more power and weight in case of juridical actions . They may also serve the responsible actions, giving them more power on a juridical point of view too, but helping them being more aware of their work forces’ needs. It depends of the country, but unions tend to make things go forward. The problem that occurs is that, nowadays, some unions do not fit the role they are supposed to play anymore: fighting without looking for compromises has become their main objective.
When talking of new measures and laws, unions consider the conflict as their and begin going on strike and yelling before thinking of all the points the reform implies. During a negotiation, both sides are supposed to talk on a clear and calm way and that is not what unions usually do… As the labour responsible said in the movie: “We are not looking for discussion, we are looking for confrontation! ” As a conclusion, I would say that yes, unions action is, from a theorical point of view, both useful and important; but the way they tend to act is, to my mind, totally unethical. Reconsidering the way those organisations are planned and acting more like a real team is the way things may change.