Sunday, 16 November 2008

Employer pays union membership. Good idea?

New employees of the ING Bank receive a letter from their employer asking them to join a union of their choice. The employer will pick up the bill during the first year, newspaper de Volkskrant reports. While companies such as Shell and Unilever pay a percentage of their employees’ union membership fee [this is not entirely correct, an FNV Bondgenoten spokesperson indicated in a comment to the Dutch version of this article: employees at Shell can apply for a tax deduction], ING is reportedly unique in compensating the entire amount.
Ahmed Kansouh of the Christian union confederation CNV says that there is ‘substantial’ membership growth at ING.
“We highly value consultations with unions”, Chief Compensation, Benefits and Labour Relations Alex Verheijden explained the ING policy. Interestingly, ING also aims to change the composition of the unions’ membership, with the ultimate goal of changing their policies. “We find that youth and high-educated people are underrepresented in unions. That’s a pity, for they work with us too. The unions’ story often fails to reflect their opinion as much as it should. Of course, we’ll still hear from them within the company, but it’d be nice if the composition of the unions’ membership would be more balanced”.
Klaas Pieter Derks of the CNV youth wing more bluntly says that unions often do not represent young workers’ interests at all. “The unions’ views won’t change until more young people sign up. But why join an organisation you disagree with?”
The ING policy may raise the number of young union members. Should unions be concerned that they compromise their independence if they let employers pay their members’ fees? Kansouh says he is quite capable of ‘biting the hand that feeds him’. “Of course. We’re independent”. But ‘biting’ is not a metaphor that appeals to him. “Together we improve the company, in the interest of both the employer and the employees”.
Should unions let employers pay membership fees? Express your opinion in the comments below. Image: ING Headquarters (photo Niclas)

1 comment:

harper said...

Some years ago FNV Bondgenoten and cleaning company Hectas agreed an employer sponsored membership. They also agreed on a smooth and low cost grievance procedure. Even in a much tougher environment then banking, its not about "biting a feeding hand", its about mutual interests for the benefit of all.