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, http://www.hrnicholls.com.au/nicholls/nichvol13/vol131th.htm Cook, T. (2000), New figures show Australian union membership in free-fall, http://www.wsws.org/articles/2000/feb2000/tu-f24.shtml
Sloane. A. A., Witney, F. (2010). LABOR RELATIONS (13th editions). Prentice Hall. Upper Saddle River, NJ
Trade unions represent groups of workers on a collective basis. The most important trade union is the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), which is the peak union body to which most unions are affiliated. Trade unions membership has declined substantially from the 1970â€™s with an average membership of 55% to just 23% in 2003. This is caused by the increase in casual and part time employment, growth in industries with low union membership such as retail and the decentralization of wage determination.
As factory operators pushed their employees to work longer and harder in order to increase profits, unions were formed. An example of this would be the fraternal organizat...
... of Labor Unions in Labor Markets. In R. C. Free (Ed.), 21st Century Reference Series. 21st Century Economics (Vol. 1, pp. 163-172). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Reference. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com.library3.webster.edu/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CCX1700400026&v=2.1&u=edenweb_main&it=r&p=GVRL&sw=w
Throughout American history, labor unions have served to facilitate mediation between workers and employers. Workers seek to negotiate with employers for more control over their labor and its fruits. “A labor union can best be defined as an organization that exists for the purpose of representing its members to their employers regarding wages and terms and conditions of employment” (Hunter). Labor unions’ principal objectives are to increase wages, shorten work days, achieve greater benefits, and improve working conditions. Despite these goals, the early years of union formation were characterized by difficulties (Hunter).
David Brody argues that the rise of contractual or collective bargaining relationships during the post WWII era formalized the relationship between employers and unions, but simultaneously began to put a break on shop floor activism. Explain Brody’s argument and, where relevant, incorporate Weber’s theory of bureaucracy.
When Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister the first thing she wanted to do was limit union power. She felt that union power applied to nationalized industrial monopolies resulted in poor service at exorbitant cost to the taxpayers. She pointed to inefficient work practices, overemployment and restrictive employment conditions such as the all union “closed shop”. These rules were dictated by union contracts and served to tie the hands of managers and the government alike. Mrs. Thatcher’s greatest grievance concerned the powers union leaders had over strikes ( Moskin 100).
Union renewal depends largely on increased member participation, generating and maintaining strong collective identities and mobilization of union resources. It was further contended that collective identities are not given, but constructed and sustained through narrative framing and engagement of individuals. These processes highlighted the importance of trade union leaders’ ability to construct and sustain workers’ collective identity and interest via strategies which seek to broaden the relevancy of trade unionism. In a time when worker collectivism is in a decline, the relevant question is to what extent is this possible? According to Muckenberger (1995), the decline of trade unionism in terms of density and the importance of trade unions as socio-political actors are often interpreted as representing the decline of worker collectivism. The underlying assumption that were put forth of the decline from literature has been the ascendancy of individualization over collectivism. There has a socio-cultural transformation whereby working class values of collectivism have given way to more individualistic orientations (Hyman 1999). Trade unions were formerly built on pre-existing solidarities such as the principle of collective identity that predated capitalist employment relationships. Collective experience at work was complemented by domestic life in nearby shared recreational, cultural and religious pursuits. In a nutshell, trade union was an institution embedded in an encompassing social landscape (Hyman 2002). The shift from collectivism to individualism was the result of the growth in affluence, skills level and geographical mobility, which enable acquisitive individualism overriding collective interests (Brown 1990). It was fu...
The laws and regulations surrounding Industrial Relations since the 1900’s have, at each reform, placed tighter constraints on the amount of power unions are able to exert. The reforms have also radically increased managerial prerogative, through an increased use of individual bargaining, contracts and restrictions imposed on unions (Bray and Waring, 2006). Bray and W...
There are many different approaches and theories regarding industrial relations nowadays. In order to mount an opinion on which is the ‘best’ or most appropriate theory of industrial relations, each theory will have to be analyzed. The three most prevalent theories of industrial relations which exist are The Unitarist theory, The Pluralist theory and The Marxist theory. Each offers a particular perception of workplace relations and will therefore interpret such events as workplace conflict, the role of trade unions and job regulation very differently. I will examine each of these theories in turn and then formulate my own opinion regarding which is the ‘best’ or most appropriate theory.