WOW-Europe / EZA Seminar, Porto, Portugal

What: WOW-Europe / EZA Seminar

Title: “The decline of the trade union movement: The only way for trade unions to succeed is to embrace the future”

When: 8 – 10 October 2019

08 October: Arrival of the seminar-participants
09 October: Start of the WOW-Europe / EZA Seminar
10 October: Continuation of the seminar and departure after 14:00 hours


HF Tuela Porto
R. Arquitecto Marques da Silva 200
4150-483 Porto
Telephone: (+351) 226 004 747

Scope and aim of the Seminar

As a result of changes in the world of labour the position of trade unions has also changed over the past 30 to 40 years. Whereas in the 70’s of the last century factories were still populated with many people at an assembly line, today you get a few people monitoring robots and other bits of machinery. This development decreased the feeling of belonging to a certain class. The so-called “class consciousness”. Add to this the rise of flexible work and one can understand why there is less urge to become part of a trade union.

The failure of many unions to respond to these changes has diminished their power. In a flexible labour market, workers need innovative organisations to defend them and the trade union movement is generally not thought of as innovative. Strike is still considered a very important form of industrial action while in fact the recruitment of new members should be far more important in order to survive.

Trade unions remain a very important social institution but as membership is declining, they will have to adapt and develop new forms of worker governance if they are to survive. Initiatives are taken and new approaches are developed, but until now this has not resulted in the desired effects. There has been growth in membership here and there, but still far too little.

Of course the trade union movement, like people too, has to deal with global changes which they have no control off. But certainly there are developments in the economy where their voice should be heard. Flexible work arrangements is such a focal area. The expectancy is not that this form of employment will become less (rather more). Trade unions should develop arrangements and services for this group which often are in need but too fragmented to approach easily. And by doing so they will in majority also approach the younger generations active in these jobs.

The only way for unions to succeed in our globalized world is to embrace the future, but if the trade union movement wishes to remain of interest this is the only thing they can do.

Conference languages: English, German, Spanish