Collectives, Unions, Associations, Networks, Groups - What the .....

Janette Searle - posted on Creative Collide at the Playground
28 September 2010





With all the talk about the Hobbit Film and actors unions we thought it might be timely to cover the option of Unions, Assocations and other collective options for creative professionals.


First we thought we'd cover what options there actually are.  We had a look and below are the definitions we discovered:


Unions are defined basically as  an organisation of workers who join to protect their common interested and improve their working conditions.  Unions are the ones to lobby employers for high rates of pay, better working conditions for their members, and some provide benefits like health insurance, pensions and the like.


An Association is an organized body of people who have an interest, activity, or purpose in common; a society.


A Network is an extended group of people with similar interests or concerns who interact and remain in informal contact for mutual assistance or support.


There is a whole range of other collective groups, but in general the consensus around the office here was the Union's generally are there to do the horrible negotiating and demanding of employers that can only really be done as an organised group, Associations are a less confrontational and are generally involved in improving knowledge and skills of their collective and in some cases providing a 'standard' for members to achieve so that employers feel more confident that their members are qualified and of an acceptable quality.  A network is much less formal and varied in nature although an organised network may act in some ways like an association.


So why join a Union or Assocation?


Again this is based on discussion in the Creative Collide office and your views may differ (and we'd love to hear them too!!


People join a union when they believe their industry or sector is in need of some change, that working conditions are or have the potential to be less than adequate and they believe a collective effort or pressure on the employers will make a difference. People also join unions for a little bit of security especially when the union offers benefits like pensions. 


People join Associations when they want to upskill or prove a certain standard of ability and knowledge to their potential clients.  They also join associations to network with colleagues, which as a freelancer or small business owner can be invaluable and sanity saving after working all those hours on your own in the your office.


As a creative professional you're often working on your own, and the work you do is often in short bursts and varied.   We've all chosen the creative path for a reason, passion, control, autonomy, the list goes on. However grouping with like minded individuals can be a massive support, and great opportunity to learn, gain more work, share worries and concerns and also triumphs experienced doing the work you do.  


Each type of collective has a purpose (obivously) and before joining any network or group research can be really useful.  If you've been working in an industry for a while you'll probably be aware of the unions, associations, and collectives available and which are good and which are not.


But have a look around, check out not only what's available close to you but what may be available internationally.  Check out who is running the union or association and when they are likely to change.  Some collectives have set terms after which the leadership must change.  This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the person in the top position.  Check out what they've achieved in the past and what their plans are for the future.  Ask around and get a feeling for the what the feeling is about the group both with colleagues, and with employers/clients.    And finally have a good think about  you and your business want to do and achieve in the future.  Will being a part of a particular union, association or group benefit you business in the full way you want it to?


Posted: Tuesday 28 September 2010


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