From the TUC

Unions, the voluntary sector and ‘Big Society’

06 Dec 2010, By

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.

4 Responses to Unions, the voluntary sector and ‘Big Society’

  1. Bob Pointer
    Dec 11th 2010, 4:46 pm

    Many of us because of our union membership and activities become involved with community groups and others in the third sector. We are not paid for giving our time, yet in many noted institutions there is a gulf between the paid staff and the volunteers. This results in a high turnover of volunteers, my own experience was of being taken for granted, without being allowed a break. So as many others we vote with our feet. We can pick and choose where we are active, I am finding that due to my union position that some expect us to do everything.

    Dec 15th 2010, 3:31 pm

    I wiork for a small charity under threat of redundancy?closure and agree that although we work in the sector because we have passion, we also have to live, we also shouild have the same working conditions as those in the public/private sector. Adarrii is living in a different world than the rest of us (he can afford to on a Cheif exec salary) ask him to do the same role as a volunteer and see what his response would be!
    Have you any recommendations for a trade union that represents individuals in the third sector? there is no union at my place of work and i would like to join one as the board are meeting to discuss next years position if we do not recieive sufficient funding for 2011

  3. Paul Nowak

    Dec 16th 2010, 11:48 am

    Hi Ron, I’ve emailed you re unions. Key thing is that the more people the join the better – hard for unions to represent individual members effectively. Best of luck with funding discussions – think lots of organisations will be in a similar position over the coming year.

  4. Songlian
    Dec 26th 2010, 4:36 pm

    Hi Paul

    I would also be grateful for the names of unions for third sector workers.

    ‘You’re working for charity mate, leave your employment rights at the door, its all about the passion here’

    This really struck a chord and I am sick of how I am being treated.

    Many thanks and I will never not belong to a union again!