Ten Myths about the Unions - Mythbusting

10. Jun 2021.

Činjenice o sindikatima / Foto: PNGaaa.com

Ten Myths about the Unions


  1. MYTH: If we organize the union, the company will close and leave. 


REALITY: Threatening to close and leave is the most common anti-union tactic that companies use, and it is based on intimidation of employees. The question is, how solid are these threats? To understand why there is no merit to such claims, we have to wonder why companies come to Serbia in the first place. The main goal of every company is making profits, and we work in the sector (ICT) where profit rates are amongst the highest in the country. As long as companies earn well they will not leave, because they have access to educated and highly skilled labour - the labour that is up to date with the world trends, speaks a variety of foreign languages and is relatively cheap. The purpose of the union is not to drive the company away, nor to push for its downfall, but rather to gain the good and fair working conditions for us workers, because there is always a room to do so. It is important to note that, while there had been cases of sudden closings of companies in Serbia (mostly factories), there were no organized unions in them. 


  1. MYTH: The union is for those who work in poor conditions or on low-paid jobs. We in the ICT sector do not need a union, because we earn good money, and we have much better working conditions.


REALITY: It is better for everyone when workers negotiate collectively. This image of unions as something exclusively reserved for low-paid jobs is created by the companies, because they want workers to think that. The truth, however, is somewhat different. Take, for example, American actors and actresses. They are among the highest paid workers in the world, and nevertheless they are members of the union (SAG-AFTRA) and regularly negotiate collective agreements, agitate and protest. So why are they doing this? Because they know that with collective bargaining, they are choosing better wages and working conditions, and will acquire those much easier. If they can, so can we.


  1. MYTH: The union is something outside, it is an interest group. 


REALITY: Simply put, the union is the workers themselves . A union is a democratic organization of employees who fight for their rights at work, and often in society. Unions also bring together people from the wider community to fight together for issues that are important to all people who make a living from their work.


  1. MYTH: Union means more conflict in the workplace, especially with management 


On the contrary, the union has a beneficial effect on the workplace and develops more harmonious relations between people. A collective agreement allows a company and workers to sit at a table as equals, and discuss problems when they arise. Without unions, workers' lives are more unstable and uncertain because they have to deal with various problems on their own, such as non-transparency, nepotism and economic insecurity.


  1. MYTH: Companies are failing because of the unions 


REALITY: Companies are failing because of economic reasons - most companies that close are not unionized. Some, however, want to keep this myth alive by illegally threatening employees who are trying to organize a union, saying that the company will go out of business. Many studies show that unions actually reduce employee turnover and increase efficiency.


  1. MYTH: Unions just want membership fees.


The money that the workers pay in the name of membership fees remains in the organization and serves for the functioning of the union. Trade unions are nonprofit organizations. Higher wages, better benefits and fair, equal treatment that workers can gain through unions, amounts to much more than membership fees, by the end of the day. Moreover, the amount of membership fees is determined by the workers themselves - members of each union organization/branch - through the democratic process.


  1. MYTH:  Union leaders are corrupt and mostly work for their own interests


There is no doubt that the situation in which a leader betrays its own membership is devastating, regardless of what kind of organization it is. However, for every single corrupt union leader you have heard about in the media, there are hundreds and hundreds of ordinary, honest trade unionists whose work is not so interesting to the media, so they are not known. 


  1. MYTH: Trade unions are rapidly disappearing and losing importance in modern societies.


REALITY: In most of the countries, union membership is stable, but at the same time, the number of workers entering the labor market is increasing, thus reducing union density. In parallel with the declining union density, wages are falling too, as are the levels of job security. In the United States, 16 million workers are union members; in Sweden, Belgium and Iceland, two thirds of employees are union members. There is no exact data for Serbia, but it is estimated that there are about half a million employees who are members of a union.


  1. MYTH: If I were to become a union member, I would be "blacklisted" by all employers and it would be difficult to find a new job.


The right to union organizing is guaranteed and protected in both domestic and international legislation. In addition, not a single employer can obtain or solicit information about whether or not you are a member of a union. This myth arose from decades of spreading anti-union campaigns and is a mere spread of fear. If something like this were true, unions would almost disappear by today, while on the contrary, in our (ICT) sector, unions around the world are growing.


  1. MYTH: The unions always want to strike, even when the workers may not want to.


REALITY: At Unitech Serbia workers make the decision to strike by voting. The goal of the union is never a strike at any cost, but to negotiate a collective agreement that represents all the workers. The strike is resorted to when, and only when, all other ways of negotiating are exhausted.