Every union in Britain can start saving money today by abandoning Microsoft Office and switching over to use OpenOffice (http://www.openoffice.org).
Nearly every union official I meet uses Microsoft Office, which costs around £375 per copy. This software suite includes such popular software as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. OpenOffice is the open source, free alternative and it costs nothing. It does everything Microsoft Office does, and is capable of reading – and producing – files in the various Microsoft formats.
When people send me Word documents, I open them using OpenOffice. When I need to send someone an Excel spreadsheet, I create it in OpenOffice.
In some ways, OpenOffice does even more than Microsoft Office. For example, when creating a document in OpenOffice, you can easily save it as a PDF file.
There are thousands of union officials in Britain who use computers that have been purchased for them by their unions. In almost every single case, the union is paying an unnecessary £375 (maybe slightly discounted) for software that has a free alternative. Why is this?
I think part of the reason is a lack of ICT skills in the trade union movement and an over-reliance on outside experts who themselves have been taught a very narrow range of skills. It used to be said that no one ever lost their jobs by recommending that a company buy its computers from IBM. The same is now true of Microsoft. The experts we rely upon consider it risky to propose to unions that they use OpenOffice (if they’ve even heard of it).
In fact, OpenOffice is hugely popular. There have been over 60 million downloads of the software, and it is increasingly being adopted by local and national governments as a cost-saving measure. The cities of Birmingham and Bristol, for example, have embraced it. The latter estimated that moving over to use OpenOffice would save over £1.4 million over a five-year period.
At the international training centre of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Turin, Italy, trade unionists from around the world are trained to use OpenOffice and bring copies home on CDs to distribute throughout their unions.
What are Britain’s unions waiting for?