Monday, February 4, 2008

Tasks Taken by Trade Union

Career development

A number of trade unions have introduced innovative services for members. Guidance on Career development is one of the major tasks that has been undertaken by a lot of trade unions. to name a few:

The British telecom managers’ union Connect, for example, launched its Opus² Careers Advice counseling service in January 2002. Opus² makes use of qualified and experienced counselors, and two programmes are currently offered, one on career assessment and the other on getting interviews. Each programme takes about four to six weeks to work through, and is based on a set of five 40 minute counseling sessions which take place either by phone or face-to-face. The cost of the programme for Connect members (about €290) is lower than equivalent commercial services, and it is preceded by a free half-hour session, to allow the individual to assess its suitability for their needs. Hourly career counseling is also available (€100 ph). Connect originally introduced Opus² for its own members, but now makes it available (at a slightly higher price) to members of other trade unions and (at a higher price) to non-union members.
Another British union, Prospect, has its own Career Plus career development programmed, delivered to members as a series of web-based worksheets. Career Plus includes modules on continuing professional development, skills, training and mentoring, and applying for jobs. Members work through the material in their own time.
SIF (Sweden) has had many years’ experience in helping members in career development. For example, it made use early on of the internet to deliver the Career coach (Karriärcoach) service to members. This is a web-based tool designed to help individuals analyze their working life prospects. SIF members receive a password from the union and can then work their way in their own time through the programme. This is one of a number of innovative developmental tools which SIF has developed for delivery to members over the internet or on CD-ROM.
Finansforbundet in Denmark is another union to offer help in career development and in personal and professional development for managers. This ranges from individual advice and guidance (for example, on appropriate lifelong learning options) to whole day or after-work sessions on particular subjects relevant to professional staff. Finansforbundet says that this has proved a popular initiative, with in recent years approximately 15% of the union’s members in professional and managerial posts participating each year.
Also in Scandinavia, the Finnish union Insinöörliitto IL offers both web-based advice to members on how to apply for better jobs and more traditional courses, on topics such as career development and job applications. Insinöörliitto IL offers legal advice to members who are negotiating their contracts and salaries with new employers

The Belgian union for professionals LBC-NVK has for several years offered its members career management workshops. Currently, two sessions are held each year, each open to 25 participants. The union hopes to extend this initiative from January 2005, to enable about 200 members each year to have access to this service.
Employment agencies

In many countries, trade unions in the past played an important role in directly finding work for members. This tradition was associated particularly with craft-based unions, as part of the mechanisms used to control access to particular professions and to prevent dilution of professional skills. It is perhaps not surprising; therefore, if some unions are now looking to recreate a similar service for their own professional and technical staff members.

TEK (Finland) operates a Recruitment Service for its members, using the union’s website. Employers can advertise current job vacancies for engineers and technical professionals on the site, without charge. Members can access this database, but can also submit on-line their own CVs (in Finnish and in English). These CVs are searchable by employers looking for new members of staff.

Connect (UK) decided to set up its own employment agency in the early 1990s, at a time when large numbers of Connect’s members were being offered voluntary redundancy by British Telecom. The vast majority had only ever worked for BT, and found the prospect of looking for work elsewhere daunting.

In France, the five major union federations have come together, along with the employers’ organisation MEDEF, to create a non-profit organisation APEC, l’Association pour l’emploi des cadres (Association for the employment of professional and managerial workers). APEC offers a major web-based employment service for cadres.It claims to have been used to date by 25,000 companies and 400,000 individuals. At any one time, around 10,000 jobs are likely to be posted on the website; individuals can also post their own CVs. APEC is available to all cadres, including those who are not affiliated to the participating unions.
Provision of training courses and lifelong learning

Unions can contribute in several different ways to the extension of training provision for members. Firstly, for many unions this is an important issue to be raised during the collective bargaining process. The Belgian managerial and professional union LBC-NVK speaks for many when it says, “Training and retraining are such fundamental rights that we try at all costs to establish these rights in collective agreements, both at company and sector level”.Naturally, unions in many countries are also actively engaged in bipartite (union/employer) and tripartite (government/union/employer) organisations and initiatives to promote vocational Training.

In France, for example, CFDT Cadres plays a key role in CESI, Centre Enseignement Scientifique et Industriel, the body which coordinates the training of engineers, technicians and cadres.

The Portuguese bank union SBSI participates in the Portuguese vocational training institute for the banking sector, whilst in Spain the UGT is a partner in the 2004 Plan for continuing vocational training.

Unions are also developing partnerships with educational institutions. SIF (Sweden) reports that it “co-operates with local universities and university colleges in Sweden in order to offer members possibilities to participate in specific curricula and courses. An example, where there have been places reserved for SIF members, is a course in project management. SIF pays for the training, and the employer lets the member participate in the course during working hours.”
Unions also themselves put on a wide range of training courses for their own members. Whilst these include more traditional courses designed for union activists on such topics as representing members and occupational health and safety, unions are increasingly focusing on servicing their members’ needs for professional qualifications. SIF, for example, arranges about fifteen educational seminars a year designed specifically for professionals and managerial staff, each focusing on a key work-related issue. In Finland, TEK currently arranges about 35 training workshops and lectures each year, tailored to the needs of its members. Another Scandinavian union, HTF (Sweden), also runs seminars and courses for managers. As the HTF puts it, “We help such members to create networks and develop their skills in subjects that are important to them”.
Preventing and combating sexual harassment:

Trade unions are uniquely able to take steps to "raise awareness of the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace" by conducting training of company officers and representatives on sexual harassment and by including information on sexual harassment in all union-sponsored or approved training courses.

Trade unions also have an opportunity to encourage employers to adopt "adequate policies and procedures to protect the dignity of women and men at work in the organization."

Trade unions may play a role as advisor to union members who have sexual harassment complaints, providing guidance on among other things, "any relevant legal rights. … Trade unions could consider designating specially trained officials to advise and counsel members with complaints of sexual harassment and act on their behalf if required. This will provide a focal point for support. It is also a good idea to ensure that there are sufficient female representatives to support women subjected to sexual harassment."

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