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Published by Unions TwentyOne

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Published by: Unions TwentyOne on Aug 19, 2010
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Unions 21 decided this year to take its ‘open space’ ortrade union debate way beyond the connes o London.Between 27 February and 4 March, we held a serieso meetings on the broad theme “What’s new? Whatworks? Modern unions and lie at work.
Our ve events attracted speakers rom the STUC, theScottish Executive and the House o Commons, the IrishCongress o Trade Unions, the Swedish union SIF, the FBU,USDAW, NASUWT, the Midlands Regional TUC, Community,NATFHE, University o Warwick, CWU, Prospect, the Work Foundation, and o course, Congress House and No10Downing Street.Our audiences came rom over 30 dierent unions,including all the biggest unions and many o the smallerorganisations. Our ‘open space’ was getting mightycrowded!
ForeFront is published by Unions 21 in association with Unity Trust Bank 
Issue Number |
Spring 2006
and in asscociation with 020 7924 7555
    S   t   e    f   a   n    R   o   u   s   s   e   a   u    /    P    A
Week of Events
 At the Glasgow meeting (page 2) Linda Shanahan of the FBU flanked by John Lloyd, chair of Unions21 (on her right) and John Park, assistant secretary of the STUC 
WORKING with the STUC, Unions 21 gathered together awide range o speakers to discuss some o the dierentorms o social partnership throughout Europe. Europe hasbeen slipping o the progressive agenda recently and ourday in Glasgow set out to put that right.
Scotland was an appropriate setting or this debate, as theSTUC and the devolved government have a Memorandum o Understanding (MOU) that provides ormal rights or unionsto have access to the Scottish government. The MOU showshow important it is or unions to be ready to speak on arange o issues to civil servants as well as the opportunitiesprovided to meet ministers. Tom McCabe the Scottish Executive’s Minister or Financesaid that this level o consultation is useul to every level o government. He values the Scottish TUC’s experience andnetworks. He hopes to use the structures or aiding publicservice reorm and both he and Linda Shanahan rom theFBU valued the government/union relationship in addressingthe issue o violence against public servants. The meeting also heard rom Fergus Whelan rom the ICTU,whose union experience within the Irish national agreementwas instructive. Fergus described an economy that wasgrowing – but where manuacturing is losing jobs while theservices and construction sectors continue to grow. Unionmembership is rising but union density is alling. The national agreements have a demonstrable value toemployers through predicable wage rises and industrialpeace in an era o industrial growth and change.Nevertheless, Fergus thought it a valid system that allowsunions welcome inuence on the ‘social wage’ as it tradeswage moderation or tax reorm outside the workplace.Problems remain, such as the recent Irish Ferries dispute,where the company tried to replace Irish workers withmigrants on 3euros an hour. Peter Cassels, ormer ICTUgeneral secretary and now working at the National Centreor Perormance, has commented on the difcultieso translating this style o social partnership into localworkplaces. The Swedish ‘social model’ involves national, sector andworkplace levels o social partnership. Having 80% o workers in unions helps to sustain union relevance, butStean Carlsson, the vice-president o Swedish white-collarunion SIF, was also wary o threats raised by a weak ServicesDirective. For example, a recent case had arisen o a schoolreurbishment contract in the town o Waxholm nearStockholm involving Latvian construction workers being paidless than the Swedish national rates.However he elt that the Swedish system still has a distinctvigour to it. The employers and unions conclude theeconomic ramework agreement that is translated into sectoragreements which, in turn, individual companies naliselocally. Interesting or a British audience, was the realisationthat these agreements are legally enorceable.Sweden’s labour court tends to rule that collectivebargaining agreements are implied terms and conditions o employment or all workers, even those who may not alwaysbe covered by an agreement. This day was rich in lessons or the UK. Our STUC hosts, JohnPark and Grahame Smith, were clear that the STUC MOU wasa model that could create real inuence or the union voicein both industry and the wider society. It states that ‘TheSTUC can expect the Scottish Executive to acknowledge thattrade unions play an important role in sustaining eectivedemocracy in society, particularly at the workplace andthat the existence o good employment practices are a keycontributor to economic and social justice.Grahame was honest about the scale o the challenge tounions produced by this type o relationship. Employerswere slow to engage with it and unions in Scotland have torecognise that this process is resource intensive – particularlyi they are to also take their issues to UK and Europeangovernment structures.
Modern Unions and Social Europe
 Stefan Carlsson, vice president of the Swedish white collar union SIF Tom McCabe, the Scottish Executive’s Minister for Finance
 THIS meeting was held, courtesy o USDAW, in the roomat the Mechanics Institute in Manchester where the rst TUC in 1868 was held. Far be it or Unions 21 to compareourselves with those awesome pioneers o the movement,but the rst summons to the TUC encapsulated whatwe think Unions 21 is all about 138 years later. The TUCwas called on to ‘assume the character o the BritishAssociation or the Advancement o Science and theSocial Science Association…..and that papers, previouslycareully prepared, shall be laid beore the Congress…witha view o the merits and demerits o each question beingthoroughly ventilated…’
David Coats’ paper on ‘Working Futures’ certainly lived up tothe pioneers’ understanding o what a trade union debateshould be. John Hannett, general secretary o USDAW joinedDavid in examining a series o ‘myths’ about work – that wewill all be ‘knowledge’ workers in the uture, work in smallrms, change jobs requently, be pauperised by globalisation,work till we drop, deer to an individualistic culture and onlythrough militancy will we discover the best route to unionresurgence. The meeting discussed the concept o the ‘hour glass’ labourmarket. The centre o the traditional workorce – skilled cratand reasonably well paid manual work – is ast shrinking andbeing replaced by growth o graduate occupations at oneend o the labour market and a growth, too, o jobs at thebottom o the labour market. Growing income inequalityand alling social mobility result as the qualications neededto escape rom the unskilled lower end o the labour marketelude growing numbers o workers. The shrinking middle ground is the heartland o unionmembership, particularly in the manuacturing sector.Workers who have never been in a union now exceed thecombined totals o current members and ex-members addedtogether.In the lively debate that ollowed, Frank Hayle rom Accordpointed out that unions have to segment their appeal – whatworks or the people at the bottom o the hour glass will notattract those managers and aspirational graduates in thetop hal o the hour glass. Coinciding with the publicationo the Women and Work Commission report Frank Holt,the Regional Secretary o Unison, also spoke o the roleo women workers and the issue o equal pay. With morewomen now in unions than men, this issue must engageunion concern as a priority.
Modern Unions and the Quality of Work 
ACADEMIC opinion is convinced that trade unions aretoo slow in promoting our role as a ‘sword o justice’ inthe workplace. Roger McKenzie TUC Regional Secretaryor the Midlands spoke about the need or equality to beembedded in union structures and used as a collectivebargaining tool to unite workers and attract new membersto the trade union movement.
He said: “We cannot tell employers to put their houses inorder without trade unions rst doing the same. Let’s getdown to the basic oundations o why we came together astrade unions in the rst place, we need to look at people whoare still being discriminated against in the workplace and seehow we can help them”.Joe Mann, National Secretary o Community, explainedhow his union has boosted membership by becominginvolved in causes such as campaigning or concessionarytravel or people with disabilities. Getting involved in suchissues is another way o involving people in trade unions. Hehighlighted the amount o time and resources unions placein campaigning or changes to the law to gain equality ormarginalised groups. He told the meeting that, while thisis vital, legal changes will mean little unless unions work to change the culture o inequality which exists in manyworkplaces.NASUWT Senior Assistant Secretary Roger Darke, whochaired the event, summed up the importance o unionscoming together to discuss equality issues.He said: “I can see how ar our unions have come and yes,we have to go a lot urther. We have to be honest enough tosay where our own problems are rather than just setting outwhat we want the employers to do. This sort o event does that because we are being honestoutside o our own trade unions. We should celebratewhat we have achieved so ar, but we should also not becomplacent.”
Modern Unions as a Sword of Justice

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