(27 January 2010) Representatives of seven trade union organisations from Belgium, Norway, Sweden and the UK came together on 25-27 January to debate and exchange ideas on recruitment and organisation. They discussed how they were responding to the challenge of falling or static membership through specific recruitment and organising campaigns and other initiatives.
The two-and-a-half day seminar was organised for EPSU by the ETUI trade union education institute.
As well as presentations from the individual unions there were also debates around whether unions are and should be more focused on servicing or organising and what needs to change to improve recruitment and organisation. There were also exchanges on the recruitment and retention of younger workers.
There were three presentations that brought out some of the key issues facing trade unions:
- Michael Crosby of the Change to Win union organising initiative based in the Netherlands began the seminar by setting out some sobering statistics about the scale of union decline in many countries in recent years and what he thought were the main elements of making the shift from a servicing to an organising trade union.
- Andy Belfield of the UNISON public services union in the UK outlined the strategy adopted by his region to focus more on recruitment and organisation and what this meant in terms of changing priorities, mapping workplaces and winning over branch officials and activists to a new approach.
- Alexander Wegner of the Ver.di services union in Germany explained how the union had adopted a medium-term strategy to improve the organisation of a particular group of workers - nursery teachers - and how this had paid off in terms of their ability to win improved pay and conditions and for the union to recruit a significant number of new members.
There was a commitment from EPSU to provide a platform for its affiliates to continue sharing information about recruitment and organising initiatives through its website and a network of contacts.
A full report of the meeting is available on the special seminar website set up by the > ETUI