Thursday, 18 October 2007

Get immigrants enthusiastic about union

The FNV recently published a booklet on innovative trade union strategies. Some unions have achieved inspiring successes. Often, immigrants play an important role in their campaigns. Can the Netherlands learn from their example? Mustapha Laboui, who runs the FNV’s ethnic minorities programme:
“It is good to see how creative people are. All kinds of things are happening. Of course, we cannot simply copy foreign initiatives. You must always adapt campaigns to local circumstances. And you should not use just one approach, but try out different methods”.
“But we can certainly borrow ideas from our foreign colleagues. An important lesson is that it is important to reach out to people. We must further develop that. Invest in networks; reach out to people at their workplaces; at festivals such as Kwakoe in Amsterdam Zuidoost. Ask them: what issues are important to you? How can the union help?”
Trade unions abroad have achieved successes by working with immigrants’ organisations. Does that sound familiar?
“Certainly, we too have found that to be a successful approach. For example, we are organising a series of information meetings on work and income, in collaboration with immigrants’ organisations. The first step has been taken. Ethnic minorities know who we are. There is a lot of enthusiasm, especially among young people”.
“We should not try to do everything ourselves. So we are going to get activists in immigrants’ organisations enthusiastic, provide them with expertise, help them get started with a mission. We cannot run everything from our headquarters”.
An important issue for European unions is organising immigrants from new member states, such as Poland. Is that an issue in the Netherlands too?
“I think some trade union officials are doing very good work on this issue. In the 1960s and 1970s, unions were afraid that immigrants would take other people’s jobs. That fear still exists. But there is also an awareness that the only way to deal with this is to work together”.
“We now try to involve workers from new member states in the trade union movement. It is a win-win situation: they benefit from better labour conditions, we benefit if they join the union”.
The publication ‘Innovative Trade Union Strategies’ can be downloaded here

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