Usually, managers have distrusted unions and fought unionization. Even hearing the word “union” can strike fear into the hearts of any Human Resources professional. The fear comes from the dread of collective bargaining and contract negotiations making their organizations less flexible and less efficient as well as increasing the cost of labor.
The segment of the workforce most likely to unionize these days includes lower-skilled workers making less pay. Typically examples of employees susceptible to unionization include maintenance, clerical and call-center workers.
The first best defense to preventing unionization in your workplace is to create a culture in your organization where workers will not want to unionize. Sounds simple, but not always easy to do. Union membership costs time and money and workers are unlikely to unionize unless they are very disgruntled.
If a company cannot afford to provide adequate pay and benefits to keep workers happy, they should consider increasing job satisfaction by giving them more flexibility and involvement in job duties and procedures. Companies should try to emphasize communication, involvement, respect, and rewards.
Unionization efforts tend to arise when management shows that it doesn’t care about employees. Managers need to regularly engage employees and hear their concerns.
If a unionization effort arises in your company, remember it a symptom. Management should take time to learn why employees believe that unionization is an option for them. Once management understands the issues, it can look for ways to address the concerns.
Companies should be very careful in how they react to an effort to unionize. It is a good idea to consult legal counsel before taking any action. It’s easy to violate labor regulations. Employers should make no comments or efforts that appear threatening to the employee for taking this action. Employers should also refrain from threatening to shut down operations or asking individuals whether they are pro or anti-union.
While it can be frightening, management should continue to communicate with employees during this process. Active listening and positive response before a union vote may lead to rejection of the union and lay the groundwork for a better long-term relationship between management and workers.
Lauren Sims is the author and the Director of Human Resources Consulting for eqHR Solutions.
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