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What Are Disadvantages of a Union for Nurses?

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A union represents social and economic issues affecting a certain class of people. Several benefits under a nurses union’s representation include higher wages and greater benefits, pensions, increased productivity due to a sense of job security, and security of retirement benefits. However, unions do come with disadvantages.

Restricted Membership

The Labor Relation Code specifies that a union’s members must have the title of an employee. This, in turn, prevents some individuals in the nursing profession -- including student nurses, private-practice nurses, managers and nursing instructors -- from becoming union members. These individuals have affiliation with the nursing sector but do not have an umbrella wing to represent them. As unions play a key role in uniting members of the nursing profession, denying individuals membership because they do not fit the code’s employee description sets a rift between these individuals and employed nurses.

Lack of Autonomy

Nurses’ unions present employed nurses with a safety net by advocating for their rights and making key decisions affecting their work life. The concept of self-management threatens the importance of representing nurses by unions; therefore, unions resist employers’ attempts to increase nurses’ autonomy. This limits nurses’ self-governance and leadership skills; after all, they rely on a larger body to secure their rights.

Management Conflicts

Nurses’ employers sometimes endure stalled productivity due to conflicts of interest with a nursing union. For example, the management cannot easily make decisions and changes on pay scales and benefits concerning their employees without consulting with the union. Protests and strikes in defiance of such measures would lead to a waste of a time. Employers cannot easily terminate the employment of a union nurse whose performance falls below standard, as there must be consultation with the union, which offers support to the nurse.

Possibility of Not Accepting Nurses' Advancement

Trade unions may resist advancement of education and experience in the field of nursing, suggests Scott Chisholm Lamont, a registered nurse. The union principle encourages senior nurses to hold higher positions, regardless of the academic advancement of younger nurses. This limits the quality of service offered and denies nurses bearing advanced academic qualification from holding equal or higher positions to senior nurses.

Divided Loyalty

Membership to a trade union represents a contract between the nurse and the union. Failure to comply with the union’s rules and regulations makes the nurse liable to disciplinary action as specified by the union. The union also requires nurses to maintain their loyalty to its actions; if there is a strike, the nurse must participate. This makes nurses liable to the union and their employer.


Diana Wicks is a Canadian residing in Vancouver. She began writing in 2004 while still a student at Lincoln School of Journalism, in the city of London. She has worked as Chief Editor of Business Chronicle, an online magazine based in London. Wicks holds a Bachelor of Arts (Honors) in journalism and a Master of Business Administration from the London School of Economics.

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