The Decline in Union Membership in Australia

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The Decline in Union Membership in Australia TOPIC – The major issue today facing the Australian trade union movement has been the decline in union density. What have been the causes, and how have the unions responded to the challenge. Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 2000, show that the decline in Australian union membership continues, despite the efforts of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), to stop the slide. The ABS reports that trade union membership has dropped to 28 percent of the total workforce, compared to 1992, where there was 40 percent. (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2000.) Previous ABS findings show that these recent figures are part of a general trend, with no slight recovery recorded in the past six years. Whilst it is evident that there is a decline in union membership, it is important to analyse why this is so and what the unions are doing to combat the downward trend. In attempting to tackle this issue, it is important to state the main objectives of a union that attract employees to join a membership and why the memberships are declining. Australian unions were established in the first half of the nineteenth century, with growth beginning in the post gold-rush era. It is from then that the fastest growth of the era seems to have been in the decade of the 1880’s, where prosperous economic conditions and a tight labour market were forces making for union development (Dabscheck, Griffen, and Teicher, 1992). The primary objective of a trade union is to improve the well being of its members. They were formed to counter the superior economic power of the employers. It has long been recognised that the market dominance of employers could onl... ... middle of paper ... ...ics, (2000). Commonwealth of Australia. Dabscheck, B. , Griffen, G. and Teicher, J. (1992), Contemporary Australian Industrial Relations, Longman Chesire, Melbourne. Deery, S. , Plowman, D. and Walsh, J. (2000), Industrial Relations, A Contemporary Analysis, McGraw Hill, Roseville. Healey Kaye. (1995), Industrial Relations, Issues for the nineties, Volume 45. The Spinney Press, Australia. Cully, M. (2000), Unions @ a Loss – Members and Earnings, Australian Bulletin of Labour, volume 26, No 1. Carson, A. (2000), New data confirms decline in unions, The Age, 14th April 2000. Short, L. (1992), The Rise and Decline of the Trade Union Movement, Cook, T. (2000), New figures show Australian union membership in free-fall,

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