In a couple of blog entries lately I have been rather scathing about the unions. It may however surprise some people to know that I grew up in working class Liverpool, and that my family were all union members so I was raised to believe in the need for unions to protect “the worker”.
The journey I have taken through various careers and life experiences has caused me to modify opinions over time, sometimes more than once! In the case of the unions I have gone from the “believer” to the “non-believer”, but it is based more on the role that the unions play rather than on their existence … or their potential!
I think that there is a place for unions but the current role and “typical” operating model of the unions is not consistent with my vision of the value unions could bring.
So … if I were to side with unions (for at least this blog entry) this is what I would say:
1. Management has not proven itself to be capable of consistently running corporations with a good balance of providing shareholder value and building corporate capability for the future. When a cost has to be paid, it is the “worker” who typically pays it with their job.
2. Government is not responsible for protecting the jobs of workers … they like to think so, but in a global economy they can’t.
3. So … “the worker” needs to look out for himself. This is consistent with everything I blog about, we are ALL responsible for ourselves. The formation of unions has been one way that “the worker” has protected themselves.
OK … so unions COULD be a valuable asset to the worker, BUT in my world they need to be a POSITIVE asset and NOT a NEGATIVE force.
What do I mean by that? Here are some thoughts …
1. What if unions were represented on company boards?
2. What if unions worked hand in glove with management with the goal of helping companies to be successful and profitable … hence creating employment.
3. What if unions recognized when global forces were at play, calling for compromises in order for companies to remain successful? What if management worked with the unions to share any profits?
4. What if unions employed their own resources that could provide independent advice and guidance to companies?
5. What if unions used their resources to provide their members with training that helped them to be more productive and thus help their companies to be more successful.
6. What if management shared the numbers with the union management in an open book format?
7. What if union management was comprised of MBAs, business people and leaders capable of working together with all stakeholders towards a common goal?
8. What if the value brought by unions was so great that companies would seek out unionized labour rather than fight it?
There was another “scouser” who grew up in working class Liverpool, John Lennon … I guess we are both dreamers!