Yesterday, many commentators expected to witness the collapse of the FNV (the largest union federation of the Netherlands, representing 1.4 million workers, pensioners and job-seekers). Instead, the chairmen of the affiliated unions unanimously agreed to create a new, unified union organisation, inspired by small profession-oriented unions and by the successful organising campaign in the cleaning sector. The new organisation, tentatively called De Nieuwe Vakbeweging (the new union movement), is to be launched at an FNV congress next spring.
Earlier this year, former Rabobank CEO Herman Wijffels and Social-Democrat Senator Han Noten were asked to mediate in a conflict triggered by a pensions agreement. Noten and Wijffels argued the real issue was how to get the union movement to adapt to a changing labour market. This resulted in a plan to create a new organisation that should focus more on the professions and and sectors where members work, and on empowering workers.
Current FNV unions will have to decide at some point whether or not to join the new organisation. Non-FNV unions and other organisations, including organisations of youth, the unemployed and senior citizens, are also invited to join. The chairman of the CNV, the second largest, Christian-Democrat federation, has said he shares the analysis behind the FNV plan.
In the new organisation, chairmen of affiliated unions will form the executive board, rather than the non-executive board, as is currently the case. Individuals can choose either to join one of the affiliated unions or become members of the new umbrella organisation DNV.
Wijffels and Noten said they consider it likely that the congresses of FNV-affiliated unions will approve the creation of the new organisation. Chairs Agnes Jongerius of the FNV federation and Henk van der Kolk of union FNV Bondgenoten will stay on in their current position, but indicated they will not lead the new organisation. Social-Democrat MP Jetta Kleinsma, who has been asked to organise the creation of the DNV, also indicated she will not lead the new organisation.
Asked whether the new organisation will focus more on social dialogue or on actions and member mobilisation, the mediators said the union chairmen agreed that the union movement needs to dispose of all available instruments to promote the interests of workers.
(Find links to Dutch sources on sister blog Vakbondsvernieuwing)