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

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

10 ideas on how unions can adapt & survive

Larry Katz - a retired Canadian Union of Public Employees Research Director of over 30 years - has written a very useful and interesting set of 10 proposals for trade unions to consider in Canada, but they could easily be adapted to the UK in general and some to UNISON in particular. He makes the point that this is the conversation we have to have with each other and with workers:

Amongst the 10 ideas he suggests are those that really ask the direct question - are workers best organised in the unions we currently have or do we need different unions? Whilst there have been a number of big mergers - none more successful than the emergence of UNISON in 1993 - they have not noticeably advanced the workforces and industries they organise in. There has been no surge in union density because of mergers. The concept of a realigning unions on industrial lines in the UK was first advanced by former TUC general Secretary John Monks back in 1999 with his still-born 'Millenium Challenge' proposals:

But could we do it better? Common purpose, efficiency, shared resources, standardised planning and organising, industry and sector targets - these could all be the features of a certain type of bigger union and relationships between unions. Katz also asks us to embrace diversity without losing solidarity - a tricky task.

This is all part of a conversation we can have, but time is running out. In a week that it is announced (by KPMG of all organisations) that one in five workers in the UK earn less than the living wage then there is no lack of imperative. But let us face it, there is no blunter evidence that unions are failing, especially in the private sector, and we are mostly getting it wrong. This conversation is important.