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Trade unions are a reality in most organized societies and labour markets across the world.
For as long as they have existed, trade unions have elicited mixed reactions among those who have either been in support of, or in opposition to them.
Essentially, a trade union is an organization intended to represent the collective interests of workers in negotiations with employers over wages, hours of work, benefits, and working conditions.
Unions often exist in specific industries and tend to be more common in sectors such as construction, telecommunications, transportation, oil and gas, and banking and finance just to name a few.
A trade union works like a democracy in that it holds elections for its members that seek to appoint officers who are charged with the duty of making decisions for union participants.
A union is structured as a locally-based group of employees who obtain a charter from a national organization.
Dues are paid by the employees to the national union, and in return, the labor union acts as an advocate on the employees behalf.
All most all unions are structured in the same way and carry out duties in the same manner.
The origins on trade unions can be traced back to 18th century Britain during a period of rapid expansion in the industrial sectors.
The prevalence of unions in various countries can be assessed using the measure “union density”.
The definition of union density is “the proportion of paid workers who are union members”.
In developed countries, at least, trade union membership and influence has declined over the past three decades.
Fewer wages are now set by collective bargaining, and far fewer working days are lost to strikes.
From an economic perspective, unions probably make unemployment higher than it would be without them, as collective bargaining often pushes wages above the level that would bring labour supply and demand into equilibrium.
However, unions can combat the excessive market power of some firms, particularly when the firms (or a government) dominate a particular job market.
They can support workers who are badly treated by management.
They may sometimes provide an efficient, and thus valuable, channel for communication between workers and managers, particularly in countries where conflict between management and unions is viewed as unhealthy.
In T&T, the Trade Unions Act gives full legal cover to “associations of workmen and masters, workers and workers and masters and masters” and legitimizes their functions as registered Trade Unions by the Registrar who is appointed under Section 8 of the Trade Unions Act.
The Trade Unions Division of the Ministry of Labour and Small Enterprise Development is responsible for providing services to Trade Unions/Associations in accordance with the Trade Unions Act, Chapter 88:02.
The first union in T&T was registered in 1935.
The four largest trade unions in T&T are: the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA), the Public Service Association (PSA), and the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW) and the Oilfield Workers Trade Union (OWTU).