The union movement has to get its act together to be taken more seriously by employers, according to the HR director at British Gas.
Alf Turner told delegates that unions had "a responsibility" to their members to get their house in order.
"The regional union structures are a nightmare and there are major problems with the quality of national officers," he said.
As union membership has declined, the quality of union representatives has also diminished, Turner said. "There just isn't the quality of person any more, and employers are not encouraging enough workers to want to become union reps."
Jack Dromey, deputy general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, said employers should do more to encourage workers to become reps.
"Unions need to make sure reps are equipped to understand company strategy. Employers have to develop representatives who can contribute usefully to strategic discussions," he said.