A simple country baker
Published:  30 June, 2006

Flicking through some back issues of British Baker recently, I came across a point made by the editor Sylvia Macdonald. She argued in February that the Government pays little heed to comments made by trade associations with memberships of less than three thousand.

This made me think – where does that leave the National Association of Master Bakers? I am a serving member of the NA board and, like every member, I have my own personal views, which in no way reflect those of the board.

In my view, if we want to increase membership to include all craft bakers, the subscription rate has to be lower.

This would mean, inevitably, that costs would have to be dramatically reduced. The only way this could be achieved would be by reviewing all the services the NA provides and charging members as and when they use them.

No longer would it be possible for a service to be provided for the very few, paid for by the vast majority of members who have no need for it.

This means probably providing only a few core services such as advice on employment law, keeping members up to date with current legislation and lobbying. In essence, the NA would become a service facilitator rather than provider.

Inevitably, this would upset many stalwart long-term members, but I would suggest our businesses have had to change to survive, in many cases dramatically, and the same must go for the NA – change or perish.

Like many, I believe the majority of members want the NA to survive as a group run for and by bakers. To do that and have any influence with Government, we must become larger and more inclusive. This inevitably will mean a comparatively low subscription rate.

There will be those who say that by providing a high standard of service, members will be willing to pay for them. True, but not enough will – that is a fact of life. Unfortunately, wishful thinking does not increase membership.

There could be the creation of a main board representing various food sectors and consisting of working representatives from each trade association. It could meet, say, once or twice a year.

This means actual working members, not just the chief executives of each trade group. I have always believed that, unless you are at the coal face, it is easy to lose a sense of perspective. Just as a poor man who becomes rich forgets what it was like to

be poor.

Unless you have to meet a wage bill year in and year out, it is only too easy to come up with ways to spend money. I am always being told: “You must realise, Tony, running a trade association is different to running a business.” Well, I thought you still had to balance the books and not waste money. And surely you have to provide a service members want.

I have often wondered that if a member knows nothing about running a trade association, how do those running one know my problems? Are they not one and the same? Oh well, that’s the price of being simple I suppose!




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