Over the decades, unions have been credited with introducing a number of work protections that have improved the overall work environment for not only their members, but also for those who work with them. However, working with unions to fill your key job positions can bring a number of new complexities and challenges to employers who are unfamiliar with their structure or who do not have the time to engage with them sufficiently. 

The same is true within the building and facilities management world. Working with unions, which can range from very small groups to very sophisticated regional or national organizations, can be time consuming. This is why many building managers choose to partner with a facilities management provider to manage the relationship with the union on their behalf. 

So what does this relationship look like, and how could your organization benefit from having one?

Types of Unions in Facilities Management

At a high level, there are two types of unions we work with: 

  • Trade unions: Also known as labor unions, these are made up of trades professionals and provide ongoing instruction to educate the laborers. In the case of facilities management, a stationary engineer—a technical professional who maintains industrial machinery—is an example of a professional who belongs to a trade union. 
  • Organized labor unions: These unions are made up of workers such as janitors and toll booth attendants, whose duties remain relatively the same over the course of their career. 

Unions range from very small to very sophisticated. With most unions, resources and training are provided to the union members to ensure they are doing their jobs with the most updated information and materials. Stationary engineers undergo training in maintaining the newest HVAC machines, energy solutions and safety training. Management of janitors might include implementing the newest green cleaning products that are environmentally friendly and safer for employees of the building. 

Besides trusting that your unionized workers are well trained and capable, there is a lot more that goes into the provisions of a union, including location changes while maintaining benefits, healthcare and keeping pay intact. Navigating these complexities doesn’t need to be a burden when partnering with a company with plenty of experience working with unionized workers. 

What Should Building Managers Know About Working With Unions?

You might be accustomed to working with at-will employees, but when you’re working with unions, there are detailed processes and guidelines to follow. For example, depending on the union, there may be structures and policies in place that guide:

  • Work rules on wages and benefits
  • Leave and vacation policies
  • The chain of command
  • Disciplinary procedures 

Because of elements like these, working with a union can be more complex and time-consuming for building managers. In addition to developing a cordial working relationship with union leaders and representatives, you need to be able to navigate some of the boundaries established in the roles. 

This is where a vendor can help. Your vendor essentially serves as the middleman between you and the union. As a trusted partner, your vendor can deal with union contracts, cost controls and other responsibilities, including consultation on ways to save money for property management. 

How Do Facility Services Partners Approach Working With Unions?

Facilities services partners take the complexity and time of working with a union off of the building managers’ hands. While your vendor handles the correspondence and necessary standards with unions, you get to benefit from the services. 

Some of these benefits include the following: 

  • You have a consistent workforce staffed by your vendor at your properties every day, which allows you to develop a personal relationship with the workers.
  • In the event that an employee in your building has a grievance with a staff member, your vendor takes on the responsibility to troubleshoot the issue. Because you’re not the direct employer, you’ll have more time and resources to focus on your core competencies.
  • You'll receive the benefits of quality assurance checks, building assessments and supervisors making sure you receive high-quality service and all agreements are being met.
  • By utilizing updated Internet of Things (IoT) technology provided and maintained by your facility services partner, you can receive meaningful information on your janitorial team to better understand where the team is strong and where they need to be strengthened, and work with your vendor to fill those gaps. In fact, by partnering with Able Services, you can benefit from our proprietary, EnAbleIFM Knowledge Management Platform, to assist you in making meaningful managerial decisions. 

Partner With a Union-Experienced Vendor 

Working with unionized staff can be a challenge. Because of the specifications unions establish to protect their workers, there’s a significant learning curve in understanding the union, which ultimately takes time away from your primary responsibilities as a property manager. 

Partner with Able Services, and take advantage of our significant number of years of experience working with unions. As signatory to several hundred  collective bargaining agreements in the United States, we have a reputation for being an efficient union employer across the country.

Ready to work with a trusted facilities partner? Request a quote today.

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