© 2004
Interview with Alke Bössiger, Head of department at UNI
UNI = Union Network International, the global federation of service sector unions

FotoFotoQuestion: UNI has pursued for years - like other global union federations - the strategy, to agree so-called international framework agreements (IFA) with global corporations. What would you describe as the main strategy of UNI?

Bössiger: The processual understanding of the instrument is important. This has changed in recent years, because we do not want a deal at any price, a paper - and that's it. It is essential to build up union networks. This also applies to the retail industry, where our first agreements come from, and which were designed very minimalist.

Question: The role of the European works councils in the conclusion of international framework agreements is controversial. To what extent does UNI integrate the EWCs?

Bössiger: There is no set procedure to run the negotiations. It is partly dependent on the strength of the local unions. If we have strong EWCs in the respective field, then they will also be integrated. However not as sole and central player, since after all, these representative bodies are not necessarily occupied with trade unionists. This also applies to world works councils, where there is no guarantee that only union members were sent. For this reason, it does not correspond with our policy to promote the establishment of such bodies. We rather try to build up our own trade union networks, as you can very well see in the case of the telecommunications industry.

Question: In this sector you could renegotiate and conclude a framework agreement last year, namely with Telefónica.

Bössiger: Yes exactly. It is a good example that international framework agreements are part of a process. Depending on our strength in each group, there is even the possibility to improve an agreement. The agreement with Telefónica is really much used by our member unions, for example, the last annual meeting was held in Panama in order to strengthen the position of our colleagues on site. At the subsidiary Atento in Brazil, the world's second largest call center operator, we were able to recruit more than 10,000 new members by referring to the agreement. The company has been neutral there with respect to our recruitment campaign. Overall, the idea of solidarity is reinforced by the conclusion of an international framework agreement - and that is not to be underestimated for union work.

Alke Bössiger is head of the department for temporary and agency workers, gaming and social insurance of Union Network International (UNI) in Nyon near Geneva.

Alke Bössiger was interviewed by Reingard Zimmer in Nyon on 19th March 2008.

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