Saturday, 9 August 2008

Catering union: reach out to workers

Catering union FNV Horecabond has a phased approach to recruitment. The organisation actively strives to involve both members and non-members. For example, when setting the demands for the collective agreement negotiations, it uses input from surveys among members and non-members. Non-members can also comment on the draft agreement, although cannot vote of course. “They often have slightly different wishes than active union members. If you don’t take that into account, you’ll alienate yourself from a large part of the sector”, says president Ben Francooy.
Promotion teams are used to reach out to non-members. The promos systematically visit all companies - from small bars to large hotels - to inform workers about the sector and the union. Workers can fill in a form if they want to know more about their profession or participate in surveys. At the work place, there is often little time to give extensive information, so that is done at a later, more convenient moment. The first 180 actions have yielded 8,500 new contacts, which have subsequently been given further information by telephone or email.
The organisation does not present itself as a traditional trade union. “We want to present ourselves in a new and striking manner with young and enthusiastic people, fun gadgets and online links to games and a newsletter, in order to make people feel: that is an organisation that I want to be part of. The most important thing is to let people know that you understand what their work is about”, says project leader Bernard Klaassen.
FNV Horecabond has its own call centre to inform and recruit members and has recently started using an external call centre as well. “It’s important that people know the union through promotion teams, the media and newsletters. In the end, the websites and contact by telephone are decisive in making people join”, says Francooy.
In addition to this, the union is developing a new membership system that allows members to choose which services they want to use. This will offer an opportunity to meat the demands of various groups of (future) members. The intention is to launch a pilot in the recreation sector by early 2009.
Union density in the catering sector is about ten percent. FNV Horecabond has the ambition to increase density, but given the large number of small workplaces and the high turnover this is not easy. Some 340,000 people work in the sector, and some 80,000 of them leave the sector every year. Among the workforce there are also some 80,000 students, who work on average 2 to 3 years in the sector.
Low density is one of the reasons to involve non-members in discussions about collective negotiations, so as to prevent representativity becoming an issue. Quality and support are decisive, the union argues.
FNV Horecabond (contains links to sector-specific sites)

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