Biggest union federation to be overhauled

4th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

The biggest Dutch trade union federation, the FNV, has decided to disband and create an entirely new organisation aimed at giving individual members a greater say, its leadership announced on Saturday evening.

The New Federation, as it will be called for the time being, is to be up and running by the summer. It will not be led by current FNV head Agnes Jongerius nor by Henk van der Kolk, who heads the largest union within the federation.

The guiding principle for the New Federation will be “Building from the bottom up”. In contrast to the current organisation, the New Federation will revolve around professional groups and sectors. Members will be free to join the union they feel best represents their interests. And they will be free to decide how to shape their work and conditions.

The executive council of the New Federation will be formed by the chairs of its individual unions. Currrently, the FNV has its own, separate executive council. It is not yet clear if the New Federation will have an independent chair.

The New Federation will be given an open character allowing unions that currently are not a member of the FNV to join the new organisation. Youth organisations and associations for the elderly and the unemployed will also be allowed to join.

The FNV currently comprises 19 independent unions, some of which clashed over a pension agreement that FNV chair Agnes Jongerius reached with the government earlier this year against the wishes of many of its members. The controversial pension agreement, watered down in response to the current economic crisis, in particular pitted two of its biggest member unions: Abvakabo FNV, which represent public workers, and FNV Bondgenoten, which represents metal and other industries. The two unions account for nearly half of all FNV members.

The FNV was created in 1982 with the merger of the NVV and NKV unions founded in 1906 and 1909. With nearly 1.4 million members, the FNV is the biggest federation in the Netherlands, which has some 1.9 million unionised workers. In 2001, around 25 percent of Dutch workers were unionised.

The news has been welcomed by both Labour and the Socialist Party. Most of the larger unions are made up of and run by a vast majority of Socialist Party members.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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