What is a trade union?

Trade unions are organisations made up of members who come together to look after their interests at work.

The members, usually made up of employees or workers, collectively negotiate with their employers over issues such as pay, health and safety, and terms and conditions like as maternity leave, holiday entitlement or sick pay.

However, as important as terms and conditions are, unions are about much more. At Bectu, we work to progress your career, give you exclusive networking opportunities, and we have a helpful benefits package that can save you money outside of your work life.

Unions also campaign about key issues in society – as members are often affected by them. Key trade union issues currently include the climate crisis, gender equality and the cost of living crisis.

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In the past, unions have been at the forefront of campaigns to introduce a minimum wage, making sure workers have fair holiday entitlement and encouraging a healthy work-life balance by reducing the number of working hours in the week.

When a workplace has a formal agreement with a union, the union is said to be ‘recognised’. Where trade unions are recognised, research shows that workers are paid better, are less likely to experience stress and mental health problems, and are less likely to be off work due to sickness.