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Meetup: Future of unions (Brussels)

September 22, 2014 @ 6:30 pm - 9:30 pm

unions 22 SEP 2014

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Wouter De Koster (HR Interim Manager specialized in Social Relations) & Felipe Van Keirsbilck (General Secretary of the CNE-CSC), were our guest speakers.

WouterDc felipe van keirsbilck

To introduce the topic, let’s do a small test. Ask an HR colleague what he/she thinks about unions? What reaction do you get? Most of you would probably get “Argh” “Hum” “No comment” “What can I say…”.

Now ask a union representative what he/she thinks about his/her employer and management. You would probably get the same reaction (but with more honesty).

How come?

Did you know that Europe counts more than 60 million union members ? With a union density that strongly varies from country to country. For example, more than 75% of workers are members of a union in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Sweden, Finland), where France counts “only” 8% and Belgium 55%. You can find more statistics here.

It’s a surprise for no one, our world is changing, our organizations are changing, our people are changing. At hrmeetup, we have been talking about how HR can and should change since a couple of years now, about how we can better adapt to our changing organizations and people, how we can better define and measure our impact, how we can better attract, assess and develop our talents, etc.

But before being HR professionals, we are employees, we have a contract with an employer, we sell our competencies/time/energy to people who buy our competencies/time/energy. The labor market is not very different from other markets: buyers and sellers trying the get as much as possible and to give as little as possible. But unlike other markets, the labor market is in a situation of over-supply. There are more competencies on the market then what the market needs, leading to unemployment. Which also means that the bargaining advantage is with the buyer and not the seller. And as employees/sellers, this is not the most comfortable situation.

So, this gives us 2 alternatives:

  • Raise demand, create more jobs, and eliminate unemployment
  • Combine our forces and bargain collectively

And this is where unions come in. They protect our bargaining power in a capitalist economy where employers/buyers always try to find the best and the cheapest “solutions”. Unions pursue equality on the labor market. That is why they exist.

Now, there is “What” unions do and “How” they do it. And their methods are probably what hurts and gives HR professionals & CEOs hick-ups. Unions have a right to strike. And strike means stopping operations and eventually losing money, creating an inequality on the organization’s products market. While defending one equality, they create another inequality; one of the hard dilemma of unions.

Now, back in our HR roles, as we often act as moderators and facilitators between our CEOs/Managers and unions. How can we improve this relationship? How can we help our organizations adapt to their market and re-organize themselves to achieve their goals, while guaranteeing equality and respect for employees’ contribution? Just like we support our Managers and employees, how can we support our unions? And how can they support us?

What will the unions of tomorrow look like?


September 22, 2014
6:30 pm - 9:30 pm
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Marjolaine Gailly & Estelle Mentior


Cook & Book
Place du Temps Libre 1
Woluwe-Saint-Lambert, 1200 Belgium
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+32 (0) 2 761 26 00



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