Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Recruit and organise - the answer to decline and attacks

Recruitment, organising, winning recognition - the themes which have dominated the past couple of days work and the issues which are central to tackling the 18-month decline in union membership we've seen as a result of redundancies in many of our traditional areas of organising.

I was in Brussels yesterday for the meeting of the Global Unions Council which brings together 40 or so senior representatives of the entire global trade union movement. I represent the International Federation of Journalists on the council.

The meeting itself veered from frustrating to inspirational to frustrating. Whilst we came up with an agreed plan of action the real strength lay in hearing abut the organising efforts of the Australian unions, some of the US unions and unions in South Africa and Brazil where trade unionism is growing significantly. There was a growing recognition of the importance of communication as an organising tool and a realisation that it is not just members but active, campaigning unions which not only improve workers' pay and workers' rights but reduce inequality and deliver better social cohesion.

It seemed to me like a constant battle between the failed defensive period of the recent past and a new, more offensive trade unionism. I'm with the future as were a number of speakers but the past was also represented firmly - a fact demonstrated so graphically when one of the chairs took out a fob watch to see what time it was. It's 2008 - that's what time it is and unless we act now, trade unions and collective bargaining risk becoming as historical as that watch in some parts of the globalised economy.

Recruitment was also central to a lengthy and really valuable discussion at the Wales Executive Council which I attended on Saturday. The council put in place some concrete plans for both recruitment and seeking bargaining rights across the media in Wales. It is the only geographical part of the union to have posted a membership rise in the last quarter - hopefully the plans will enable it to continue to do so.

Monday morning I met with the General Secretaries of Bectu, Equity and the Musicians' Union to discuss the work of the Federation of Entertainment Unions before a meeting with Thompsons Solicitors, the union's lawyers to discuss to discuss the provision of legal services for the next five years.

Today it's off to the BBC for more negotiations...

1 comment:

Paul Hardy said...

A fob watch is not necessarily a sign of retrograde union views. I was recently given such a nurses' fob watch by one of the US unions to the forefront of moving towards aggressive industry-focused organising.