EPOC workshop: How unions can defend, extend and rebuild collective bargaining




The EPOC network's in-person workshop showed participants how a "whole union approach", sectoral collective bargaining and innovative projects can build collective power.

EPOC workshop: How unions can defend, extend and rebuild collective bargaining

From 19-20 June 2024, UNI Europa’s EPOC network hosted an in-person EPOC Network Union Renewal Introductory Workshop.

From journalists and media workers in Türkiye to retail workers in Finland, EPOC Network bring unions together to learn and network in the area of organising and trade union renewal. During the workshop, UNI Europa Organising Director Ben Egan and Fellesforbundet Organising Director Kjetil Larsen introduced around 15 participants from national and European trade unions to EPOC’s ”whole union approach’’ in organising. Fundamentally, this means fully integrating organising strategy into political demands, collective bargaining and the representative functions of a union, making organising drives much more likely to be successful in a shorter period of time.

The workshop facilitators and guest speakers shared examples from Turkey, Finland, Austria, Norway and Ireland to illustrate the success of the approach. Moreover, in countries that have sectoral bargaining systems, embedding organising drives into sectoral collective negotiations – with activity peaking around the time of the negotiations – can both increase membership and get a better deal with employers.

A successful project on membership retention

Participants also learned about the importance of retaining, not just recruiting, trade union members. For instance, 20,000 new members join the Norwegian trade union Fellesforbundet each year. However, the union only has an annual net growth of 1500-2000 members. To stop haemorrhaging members, it launched a project to increase its retention rate.

By using regular phone calls and other forms of electronic communication, a dedicated team of organisers located in the local branches across the country managed to increase the retention rate to 60 per cent among the people they contacted. Between January and May 2024, 4,000 members who were on the brink of loosing or giving up their membership remained in the union this way. Emma Watne, who leads the project in Fellesforbundet, said that professional retention work clearly pays off – and pays for itself. More importantly, it stops workers from being left alone without the support of a union.

Since 2019 EPOC has worked with over 30 unions like Fellesforbundet to help them to build capacity to organise and defend, extend and rebuild collective bargaining. Hundreds of union officers have benefitted from training on organising and campaign building. Campaigns run with EPOC have benefitted hundreds of thousands of workers by boosting their pay and working conditions as a direct result of bilateral EPOC support.

For more information about how EPOC can assist your union, please reach out to Ben Egan.

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