By Chris Wilson, Voice President (Immediate Past President since 15 June 2019)
I attended the Future of Trade Unions Conference as Voice's President, with Vice President Melynda Standring and Council Member Sandra Wilson.
WoW is the most moderate of the three trade union internationals; the others being the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU).
The seminar took place from the 6 to 8 February 2019 at the Melia Palma Marina, with 60 representatives in attendance.
The unions represented were from across Europe and included: ASIPA (Spain), CFTL (Portugal), CGM (Germany), KOK (Czech Republic), CNV (Netherlands), DHV (Germany), FCG (Austria), Krifa (Denmark), Solidarity (Poland), SS Bofos (Serbia) and Vost ‘Volya’ (Ukraine) and Voice, represented by the President and Vice President. Voice member Mrs Sandra Wilson was also in attendance as an observer. The unions attending were mainly professional or banking unions. CNV and Krifa both have significant teaching memberships.
The proceedings were in English, Spanish and German, with interpreters translating through headphone where necessary. The Voice delegation was made very welcome. They were delighted we were there and interested to know about our union. The Seminar took place over two days and was divided into sessions each with a discrete theme.
The challenge facing all trade unions in Europe
- Declining trade union membership – noting that the UK had 33% trade union membership in 1995, falling to 26% in 2012. Membership is falling across Europe but Krifa is resisting this decline by broadening the membership services it provides, including help in finding employment.
- 5.1 million posts will be lost in Europe 2015-2020 due to technology
- World Economic Forum – 50% of jobs will be automated.
- Capital is globalising and labour and labour organisations will need to do the same.
- BUT labour is being divided by the rise of populism and nationalism in Europe.
- Union membership fell more sharply in Eastern Europe than in Western Europe.
- Average trade union age in Europe is now 48. We need to recruit younger workers in particular.
- Technology is now pulling workers apart, atomising workplaces, individualising terms and conditions of employment.
- Traditional militancy is not the answer. There is a need to embed social partnership as alternative.
- Unions must be prepared to change, or they will decline.
How can we change?
- Be open to young people.
- Use digital technology to organise (There are 2 billion on Facebook.)
- Embrace digital organising! Krifa has a digital strategy (since 2008). They also have a digital department to reach members.
- Invest in organising.
- Listen to members, keep the closest dialogue.
- Remember the importance of job satisfaction/mental health.
- Personalisation of member engagement.
- It is not just about pay and conditions.
- Add social services, such as unemployment fund
Unions should embrace:
- social security;
- social inclusion;
- social empowerment;
- social cohesion – each of these are equally important;
- ‘buddy systems’ to develop new activist engagement; and
- develop global links: we need each other.
This was a very worthwhile event. We met people of like mind and like values.
WoW has much to teach us, not least in terms of digital organising and the need to develop global responses to global challenges.
Voice's Vice President Melynda Standring, member Sandra Wilson and President Chris Wilson (February 2019):