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Inside the Unions

A Comparative Analysis of Policy-Making in Australian and British Printing and Telecommunication Trade Unions


Ed Blisset

This book consists of a comparative analysis of policy-making in Australian and British telecommunications and printing trade unions. It tests the validity of different theoretical models of union policy-making and behaviour, whilst also assessing the strength of the book’s hypothesis, that informal micro-political influences inside unions – such as personal friendships, enmities and loyalties – affect union policy-making to a greater extent than has been previously acknowledged in the literature.
Two central questions lie at the heart of this book: How, and why, do unions adopt specific policies? What factors explain the different behaviour of similar unions, when faced with comparable policy choices?
As a former senior union officer the author realised that trade unions are often wary of publically disclosing those factors which informed their policy choices. For this reason an interview-rich methodology was adopted, which involved a seventeen-year longitudinal study, in which over 220 officers and staff of all the relevant unions, were interviewed in depth. The result is a book which throws new light on the rich and complex process of union policy-making.


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I would like to thank Ed Heery and Bradon Ellem for their advice, encour- agement and support in the completion of this book. I am indebted to all the of ficers and activists of the British and Australian telecommunication and printing unions, who generously gave up their time to be interviewed. The further help many of these contributors gave, in providing suggestions and contact details of other people to approach for interviews, was also invaluable. Finally I would like to extend a very special thanks to those participants who, in addition to giving of their time and knowledge, also extended to me hospitality and practical assistance in undertaking my fieldwork. Their help assisted me enormously, but as I promised to protect the identities of all interviewees, I am unfortunately unable to name them here.

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