Negotiated workers' rights with companies

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Ferre Wyckmans

For a membership-based organisation like the ACV-CSC trade union federation, contact with members and staff representatives in companies and institutions is essential. Negotiations in companies and sectors are more than an exchange of views; personal interaction is the lifeblood of social dialogue. This also applies to contact with colleagues from other trade unions. And of course internal informal and formal interaction between staff is also essential both for work purposes and for interpersonal relations.

Skype, Zoom and web seminars are now being used alongside telephone and email as means of communication. They have been and continue to be necessary, but they are not enough. We will soon need to return to traditional means of contact alongside them.

Since the start of the lockdown, the ACV-CSC has made great efforts to switch from physical forms of contact to other ways of working as efficiently as possible. Meetings have been cancelled. In the future, the notion of "essential" is set to become an additional criterion in our huge meeting culture. The rules in place in the trade union on working from home are now much less restrictive. Working from home is the norm; physical presence at the office the exception. Here too, experience will lead to lasting changes.

The impact of the COVID-19 crisis in terms of employment, and in particular temporary unemployment, changing work arrangements, working from home, safety provisions and dismissals has been enormous. As a result, the need for collective and individual support for members has increased rather than reduced the work. Phone contact and video calling, emails and back office activities have been increasing exponentially. In specific circumstances, for example where there is no technological option or because of a lack of skills, members are still being helped in person. The communication and IT departments are working flat out. FAQs, diagrams and websites are being updated and expanded as far as possible. And even new forms of action are being developed. Digital means of action are taking on a new form. Local actions (socially distanced) by health workers are being coordinated centrally and brought together by drones. Creatively and practically carrying out the collective and individual work of our trade union – even coronavirus cannot win out over that concept.