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The Relationship Between HR and Unions

Unions and human resources (HR) are inextricably linked. Unions were created to protect workers in the workplace and help ensure that their needs and rights are heard and respected. HR professionals face a wide range of responsibilities when managing unionized employees, and it is important for HR professionals to understand their responsibilities in this arena to effectively manage union-represented employees and protect the organization from unnecessary labor disputes.

HR professionals must ensure that the organization follows all applicable labor laws and collective bargaining agreements (CBA) when dealing with unionized employees. Understanding the terms and conditions of an applicable CBA and any limitations or opportunities it presents is crucial. It is also important to understand the scope of exclusive representation provided by the union to ensure that any actions taken regarding unionized employees comply with both the law and the CBA.

HR professionals must also make sure that the organization’s management team is educated on the union's role in protecting employees' rights and interests in the workplace. It is key to help familiarize management with the role of union stewards, the right of unionized employees to join a union, and how to conduct collective bargaining and grievance procedures. In addition, HR professionals should ensure that all personnel actions, such as promotions and terminations, the right to salary increases, job training, time off, and leave time (to name a few), are taken in accordance with labor laws, CBAs, and any applicable contracts.

Another essential task for HR professionals is ensuring that the organization remains neutral in union organizing efforts. For example, it’s recommended to refrain from any statements, threats or promises that could indicate discrimination against union-represented employees or discourage their efforts to join a union.

One of the primary challenges of HR working with unions is balancing the interests of workers and management, who often have competing goals and objectives. This can be incredibly difficult as HR practitioners must be perceived as impartial, while still ensuring the interests of both sides are taken into consideration. Tensions can also arise due to the fact that management and union representatives may have different views on how wages and benefits should be negotiated. Therefore, HR must actively work to find a workable agreement that benefits all parties, while ensuring the interests of both sides are respected and taken into consideration. HR must also stay current on the ever-changing labor laws, regulations, and union policies to ensure proper and effective representation. Lastly, HR must be prepared to handle any potential disputes that may arise by mediating and negotiating in a fair, impartial manner.

The relationship between HR and unions can be productive and beneficial. Unions provide workers with a collective voice and bring important issues to the attention of HR departments and management. Similarly, HR professionals bring their expertise in compliance, communication, and team building. When these two parties work together, they can create a culture of open dialogue and mutual respect leading to improved employee morale, enhanced job satisfaction, and a greater understanding of worker needs. Ultimately, the goal for both unions and HR is to improve working conditions and create a more positive work environment for all.


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