UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Trade Union size & character - German lessons for the UK?

The success of the 2.1m strong ver.di union in securing a 6.3 percent two year pay rise for Germany's public service workers was bad timing for the writer of a Guardian article - published on Saturday, the same day as the deal was reported - which boosted the 'rise of small unions' in the EU's largest nation:

The author though is confused as well as unlucky. The long term decline of trade unions all over the 'western world' has different and more meaningful causes than a rise of so called 'niche' trade unions. Niche trade unions committed to servicing models of trade unionism may still have a place for professions but the bulk of workers in the economy will continue to be in low paid unskilled and de-skilled occupations. That includes the private sector. There will be no growth of small associations in call centres, retail companies and service sector employers.

For us in UNISON there is little to learn from niche unions but a lot to learn from the recent public sector strikes in Germany. Powerful unions with real bargaining weight attract workers. In turn that means high density and high levels of organisation in the work place. There are no short cuts.