Unions, the voluntary sector and ‘Big Society’
Interesting Guardian article, which suggests union membership in the community and voluntary sector is rising in response to fears about job losses and pay cuts.
Its a trend I think we’ll see replicated in the public sector – with union density (but not necessarily membership) likely to increase as the cuts begin to bite.
Sad to hear Filippo Addarii, executive director of the Euclid Network – (a European-wide organisation for voluntary sector bosses) re-heating an old chestnut and warning that trade union membership is in some way potentially incompatible with the ‘ethos’ of the third sector. Warning about the potential impacts of strikes in the sector he suggests,
“The third sector should be where you work because you have a passion and it reflects your values. If you lose that passion and values it just becomes a service provider – it doesn’t have a function any longer.”
Basically, ‘You’re working for charity mate, leave your employment rights at the door, its all about the passion here’. Last time I checked, most people – including those who work in the voluntary sector – have to pay their mortgages and other bills with money, rather than passion, values and ethos.
Of course, the idea that union members aren’t also passionate about the jobs they do and the services they provide is laughable. They just also quite like the idea of being treated fairly, a decent wage, a safe work place and a voice on the job.
In fact the ‘ethos’ that Mr Addarii is so keen on, is precisely the same ethos that underpins the largest voluntary sector movement in the country. As values driven organisations with over 6m members, and 200,000 unpaid lay reps and activists Britain’s unions embody the real ‘Big Society’. As TUC research discovered, union reps are ‘nearly three times as active in terms of volunteering and more than eight times as active in terms of civic participation’ than the population as a whole.
Early in the New year we’ll be hosting a conference exploring the relationship between unions and the third sector, and thinking about how unions and others can help build the ‘good society’ – we’ll post more details on the blog as soon as we have them.