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Inside the Unions

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

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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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Chapter 2 Methodology

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Introduction This chapter explains why a qualitative, interview rich, methodology was adopted, in order to answer the two central research questions: How, and why, do unions adopt specific policies? What factors explain the dif ferent behaviour of similar unions, when faced with comparable policy choices in three specific areas; recruitment, amalgamations and inf luencing the labour process? Initially the chapter will concentrate on why a comparative approach was adopted in order to try and answer these questions. As part of this section, an explanation will be provided as to why Britain and Australia were selected as the comparator countries. The reasons for the choice of the respective nations’ printing and telecommunication unions will also be addressed. The strengths and weaknesses of the adopted methodology, in test- ing the research hypothesis that informal micro-political inf luences inside trade unions – such as personal friendships, enmities and loyalties – af fect union policy-making to a greater extent than is acknowledged in union policy-making literature, are also considered. Finally the various problems and limitations with the adopted meth- odology are highlighted, as are the reasons why other methodological approaches were not deployed. 10 Chapter 2 The reasons for the adoption of comparative research In the early 1990s, when the book was at its gestation phase, the aim was to focus solely on British trade unions. The original intention was to undertake a detailed examination of a small number of unions, who faced similar indus- trial and technical challenges, organised like memberships and possessed closely comparable...

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