Some unionists try to promote dissatisfaction and anger among workers as a strategy to organise them. Wrong, says Peter Hall-Jones of New Unionism in an opinion article. Unions should not focus on what workers are against, but on what they are for.
The core of his argument consists in data on job satisfaction, which show that over eighty percent of workers in Western countries are fairly satisfied or very satisfied with their work. “[T]he overarching message for unions could not be clearer: an organising strategy which is centred around fear and anger will only resonate with a minority of potential members”.
In addition, a conflict-based organising strategy “allows right wing governments to paint unions as a destructive socio-economic force, and it allows HR managers to promote positive values (e.g. caring, trust etcetera) in the face of a perceived ‘external’ threat”.
Hall-Jones’ view seems at odds with the Anglo-Saxon organising approach, which tries to organise workers by focussing on issues they feel strongly about. However, in one respect the two approaches agree: in emphasising the importance for unions to have a strong workplace presence. Hall-Jones argues for “a new kind of presence – an on-site voice which can seriously address matters like workplace culture, inter-personal difficulties, stress, management styles and work-life balance”.
Do you think Hall-Jones is right? And does that mean that there is something wrong with the ‘organising approach’? Give your view in the comments.
Photo: George Kelly