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A surprising statement perhaps, from an organisation working exclusively for employers, but it can be true.

It is some ten years since I sat down with a prospect to discuss their recent recognition of a Trade Union. It was something they certainly saw to be undesirable. Among their employees were three who felt they were being poorly treated, were quite vociferous about it and were causing fair levels of disquiet among other employees. It was they who’d initiated a disputed ballot that had led to voluntary recognition.

For an organisation of any size a Trade Union gives employees a voice – and that can be helpful. Because Trade Unionists are protected in ways that other employees are not they can tell you things that you might not want to hear – about how well you manage your employees, for example.

By allowing (or perhaps having to allow!) negotiations over pay, hours or other terms and conditions you can create greater commitment to the end result. Sometimes there are solutions that work well in both the employer and employees interests that would not have emerged without someone to put the opposing view.

For my prospect, that became a client, the recognition worked well for them. The organisation settled down and eventually they were able to de-recognise the Trade Union because the staff felt they no longer needed it.

Indeed many organisations work very effectively without ever recognising a Trade Union but, especially if they are a larger employer, they will have had to (and have to continue to) work hard to “keep them out”. Invariably that means creating and maintaining good communications.

There are more effective ways to give employees a voice and to hear opposing views than to recognise a Trade Union. These ways can benefit all employers, irrespective of any TU threat. The starting point is an Employee Survey carried out professionally by, amongst others, an organisation such as Employer Solutions. It gives employees a voice, helps you hear what you might want to be deaf to, and can produce solutions of which you had never even dreamt.

But the Trade Union remains an alternative!