Do you believe that trade unions have a strong future in Australian industrial relations? If so, why?
Trade unions have been described as organisations of workers set up to improve the status, pay and conditions of employment of their members and associations of workers who by means of collective bargaining endeavor to improve their working conditions, economic and social position (Salamon, 1992). Trade unions face many implications, declining union density, rapid expansion into casual labor market and decline of the manufacturing industry as a job provider.Trade unions have played a major role in the development of Australia and will continue to do so, however its critical that they adopt ...view middle of the document...
Further, occupational unionism gives rise to multiple unions in the workplace, which tends to fragment union voice (Drago & Wodden, 1991). Beginning with amendments to the Industrial Relations Act 1993 and continued under the 1996 Workplace Relations Act and 2006 Workplace Relations (Amendment) Act, state support for unions has been effectively withdrawn and the Australian welfare state guided by New Protection is all but dead in the wake of Welfare to Work legislation.
“What may be termed the internal challenges to trade unionism stem from transformations in the traditional membership base. The male, manual industrial worker whose nine-to-five job was central to his existence is a declining species. The world of work now manifestly has two genders, is occupationally and often ethnically diverse, and involves highly differentiated patterns of activity over the day, the week and the lifetime” (Hymen, 2002). To the extent that trade unions still represent primarily their old core constituencies, they suffer declining membership and lose effectiveness
In the context of membership decline and economic restructuring, the uncertainty about prevailing patterns of representation and organization, and changing patterns of work and employment, many unions began to review way they organized and operated (Fairbrother, Williams, Barton, Gibellieri & Tropeoli, 2007). As Table 1 indicates (cited in, Patmore, 1992) there are two series of statistics produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for union density. Series 1 is based on estimates from trade-union officials and is considered the least accurate of the two series (Patmore, 1992, p. 226) Series 2 is based on a survey of employees.
According to Series 1 there has been only a small decline in Australian union density since 1982. The more accurate Series 2 presents a more pessimistic picture, “with a continued decline in the 1980s and the August 1990 survey finding that 41 per cent of the 6,565,600 Australian workers aged between 15 and 69 were trade-union members in connection with their main job. The latest figures do indicate that the annual rate of decline has slowed. Between 1988 and 1990 the annual rate of decline for Australian trade union density was 0.4 per cent. This compares to 0.9 per cent for the period 1982-90 and 1.1 per cent for 1982-8 “(Patmore, 1992, p. 226). From 2005 to 2010 the union density percentage have fallen from 20.3% to 18.3% (website). For union density to return to the 2005 figures, given employment growth it would require a net growth of 642 000, by 2015 (website). “The data confirms that the opportunity exists for all Australian unions to grow. But we know that strong and growing unions are a product of systematically implementing carefully planned and well resourced organising campaigns” (“Urgency & Opportunity,” n.d., para 9).
Unions face a difficult moment in their history. Many of the past political and economic certainties no longer...