Traditionally manufacturing, the trades, government and primary resources have been unionized, or have been hugely vulnerable to unionization. With the Great Recession of 2008-09 these sectors shrunk, forcing unions to target non-traditional industry sectors.
The fact is that unions are for-profit organizations and with jeopardy to their traditional markets they are forced to seek out non-traditional markets to sustain their bottom line. Unions are becoming quite vocal, and very active, about organizing the non-traditional service, retail and hospitality industries. Unfortunately, these industries thrive on job flexibility and have narrow margins; items not compatible with unionization. For these significant reasons, and other important reasons, non-unionization is the preferred status of many employers.
Having said this, union avoidance is not a by-chance outcome!
Contrary to popular belief unions don’t usually get into a company because of wages or benefits. Promises of higher wages and improved benefits are more often the after-the-fact “hook” and not the primary reason employees seek out unions. Low employee morale and accusations of favouritism are more typically the reasons employees go looking for union representation.
So, what can you do to mitigate the likelihood of unionization?
At 50,000 feet we can tell you that it is imperative to give your employees a voice, to listen to them, to engage them and to empower them. Ensure employees know the rules and that those rules are being consistently applied. Don’t forget to tell your employees what they are doing well and not just what they’ve done wrong; have a formal mechanism for providing feedback. Ensure employees know tangibly what their jobs expectations are and ensure that they are trained fully to meet those demands. Pay employees fairly for the job they are doing; you don’t need to be a wage leader but you do need to be in the proverbial ball park. And, don’t forget to invest in employees today and for the future, tell them they are worth being developed and that you want them along for the long run.
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