Many nurses nowadays are thinking of joining a union. This isn’t really surprising since nursing unions, just like associations in other industries, have many benefits to offer to their members. However, it’s important to take note that they can also bring several disadvantages. Because of these, nurses have to do their research, find out what these pros and cons are, and decide if becoming a union member is a great move for them.
List of Pros of Nursing Unions
1. They can help negotiate better working conditions for nurses.
Individual nurses who have complaints about their working conditions usually don’t get noticed, simply because their lone voice won’t grab the attention of the hospital management. However, put them together and make them act as one, and the management will have no choice but to listen to what these nurses have to say. This is how nursing unions work: they have strength of numbers and can use this power to negotiate better employee benefits (like pension plans and medical and dental coverage), less complicated vacation scheduling procedures, more reasonable nurse-to-patient ratios, and other things.
2. They can pave the way to higher salaries.
As mentioned above, nursing unions can help their members have favorable working conditions. But they don’t just stop there because they can also help nurses have higher wages. In the United States, for example, unionized nurses can earn $200 to $400 more per week than those who don’t belong to a union. In Canada, unionized workers have salaries that are around 30 percent higher than their non-unionized colleagues.
3. They can defend nurses against unfair treatment.
Unions can directly represent nurses when the management requires them to undergo disciplinary actions or subjects them to unfavorable working conditions. They can also prevent hospital managers from easily firing a nurse without going through due process. With this representation, nurses have the assurance that they can continue taking care of patients without sacrificing their livelihood and well being.
List of Cons of Nursing Unions
1. They may charge high membership fees.
Many nursing unions require their members to pay high union dues. This can be a problem for numerous nurses, who already are receiving low wages and would have to subtract expensive fees from their already low take-home pays.
2. They touch upon a nursing taboo.
Money is a taboo subject for many nurses, who enter the profession not to become rich but to care for patients who are in need. Unions, however, have to touch upon this subject in order to negotiate for more favorable working conditions for their members. This can be a dilemma for nurses, many of whom don’t want to think about monetary rewards for their work but also need higher salaries to support themselves and their families.
3. They can negatively affect patient care.
When union members go on strike, it can affect the level of care that patients receive because no one’s there to provide for their medical needs. Many hospitals bring in replacement nurses when their employees go on strike, but it doesn’t solve the problem because these replacements often are less skilled and cannot really provide the level of care that professional nurses can give.
Nursing unions have positive things to offer to their members but can also have some negative effects. With these in mind, nurses must weigh the pros and cons to see if joining a union is the right step for them or not.