However, like every organization with high ideals trade unions can, and often do, get dominated by the extremists and the die hards who would rather see the whole workforce go out on strike and close the factory than compromise on some minor idea or notion they have.
A case in point would appear to be the union in Waterford that took a stance on relocation of a factory and now may cost the entire workforce of 120 people their jobs.
The company wants to move production of its cookers and ranges to a premises on the IDA industrial estate three miles away.
The union representing most of the manufacturing staff, the TEEU, wants €2,300 for each employee for the relocation.
The company says it will not pay relocation money as it will cost the company at least €500,000.
Was the relocation really that severe? Let's be honest, three miles is not that great a distance, it's certainly not worth loosing your job over. Was this just a case of someone deciding to take a chance and see if they could get some easy money from the employer without thinking of the possible consequences?
It the global economy of the new millenium the Irish unions must learn that they can no longer squeeze the employers for every last penny. Companies don't have to stay in an unprofitable, unproductive, troublesome factory in Ireland when Eastern European countries are queuing up for the chance to shower them with new factories, cheaper workforces, and laxer employment laws. It may not seem just, but thats the new reality.
What will happen to the high ranking union officials if the 120 union members loose their jobs? Very little I suspect. Apart from the shop steward all the others will probably keep their jobs. When unions and employers square off frequently the only real looser is the ordinary worker. I wonder if the trade union would do the decent thing and offer the 120 union members jobs in their office? Not bloody likely.