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The tripartite EU agency providing knowledge to assist in the development of better social, employment and work-related policies. Trade unions may, for the purpose of analysis, be divided into a number of categories, as follows:.
The earliest form of trade unionone whose membership is restricted to a particular category of skilled or craft workersfor instance, printers, carpenters and so on.
Membership of craft unions is usually restricted to those who have completed the recognised qualification for the craft or skill in question, frequently an apprenticeship. Being closed unions see belowcraft unions may be quite small: A trade union which has no form of restriction on categories of worker who may join. There are no limits on the industrial or occupational area of recruitment. As such, general unions are open unions see belowand tend to be fairly large.
As some trade unions move away from their original areas of recruitment, so they may become more like general unions; for example, the British-based union EETPU now amalgamated with the engineering union AEU to become AEEU which was originally a craft union, has now moved into a number of other sectors and recruited many semiskilled workers, thus having become closer to a general union than a craft union.
A union which confines its recruitment to one particular industry or industrial sector, and aims to recruit all workers at all grades in that area. In attempting to recruit all grades of workers in the industry, industry unions are therefore vertical unions; however, the existence of the Communication Managers' Union blocks the CWU's attempts to recruit managerial staff. A union which confines its recruitment to particular occupational areas, many of which may require the holding of certain qualifications in the same way as craft unions.
Occupational unions mainly exist in the white-collar area: Many Irish occupational unions are structured along the lines of grade or type of staff: Occupational unions also exist for workers in the health services, but these are more commonly referred to as professional unions. Unions whose membership is restricted to members of the same or similar professional areas. Professional unions are thus another form of craft union, but members of these unions would regard themselves as being of a higher status.
Examples of professional unions are the National Union of Journalists and unions representing health professionals, such as those for doctors or nurses, and teaching unions. A union which recruits vertically through grades; in other words, workers from the lowest "shop-floor" grade up to management are recruited.
Many professional unions are vertical: The difficulty with vertical unions is the potential they contain for conflict between the grades, which may be manifested in different views on what union policy should be in a particular area, or even in cases where the management structure means that the workers in dispute and the managers against whom the dispute is taken are in the same union.
A union which recruits primarily whitecollar workers, in other words, non-manual workers. Whitecollar unions represent general clerical workers and workers from the services sector, including financial services. The main expansion in trade union membership since the s has been in this area. The largest white-collar union is the MSF, although the general unions have a large proportion of white-collar workers in membership, and trade unions representing clerical grades in the civil service and local government may also be classed as whitecollar.
Many writers feel that the approach to union structure using the categories listed above now has limited usefulness, since many unions may come under more than one category and in any case, the boundaries between the categories are vague. A simpler classification is the distinction between open and closed unions.
An open union is one which imposes no restrictions on its area of organisation except, perhaps, those imposed by the ICTUand will recruit all workers in the occupations where the employers operate.
A closed union, on the other hand, restricts its membership to particular categories: The aims of the two categories of union are very different: These categories of trade union are not fixed: Eurofound is an agency of the European Union. Skip to main content. For current material see the European industrial relations dictionary. Click to share this page to Facebook securely.
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