IMF to mainstream organizing non-manual workers
With continuous shift from manual to non-manual work, unions should look to organizing non-manual workers more effectively.
GERMANY: Around 50 union representatives from IMF affiliates in Australia, Europe, Japan, North America and Singapore met at IG Metall headquarters on October 29-30, 2009 to discuss organising tools and strategies for non-manual workers against the backdrop of the global crisis.
In a key note presentation on structural developments in the metal industry, Professor Volker Wittke from the University of Göttingen highlighted the continuous shift from manual to non-manual work taking place within industry driven by automation, technological innovation, the demand for new products and services, and globalization.
All these changes have a major impact on the composition of the workforce in core sectors of the metal industry, on skill requirements, work organisation and working conditions, in particular a significant increase in workload and work intensification. Although the crisis alone was not a sufficient reason for non-manual workers to join a union, Dr. Heiner Dribbusch from the Hans-Böckler Foundation pointed out that unions could take advantage of opportunities to demonstrate their relevance, their effectiveness and the benefits of collective action at this time.
Helga Schwitzer, IG Metall Executive Board, noted that this year 13,000 non-manual workers had joined IG Metall , representing a 2.4 per cent increase over the preceding year whereas overall membership had dropped by about one per cent. Representatives from other countries reported similar developments in their own organisations, arguing that these workers no longer felt immune from restructuring and cost-cutting plans and they were mobilising for the defence of their rights more and more.
The seminar was structured around four panel discussions: reaching out to young people; organising ICT workers and self-employed; organising engineers and professionals; and building solidarity between manual and non-manual workers. The presentations on organising strategies in various countries gave rise to lively discussions and an in-depth exchange of views and experience on the problems and challenges facing affiliates in organising non-manual workers.
The main points of the discussions, as summarised by IMF General Secretary Jyrki Raina, provided some ideas about future work:
- Mainstream non-manual workers' issues in all IMF activities and union-building projects
- Update and build content to non-manual section on IMF web site
- Networking and promoting exchange of information, material and ideas
- Communications and visibility: articles on IMF web site, IMF NewsBriefs and Metal World
- Union rights: action on countries with legal restrictions on organising non-manual workers
Key topics highlighted by the meeting for ongoing exchange include:
- Innovative organising methods and cases
- Union rights
- Collective bargaining questions
- Communications and services
- Equal rights
- Young workers
Copies of presentations delivered at the meeting will be published on the IMF website.Nov 03, 2009 – Anita Gardner