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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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Chapter 3 Union Policy Making: Theoretical Perspectives


Chapter 3 Union Policy-Making: Theoretical Perspectives Introduction This chapter outlines and reviews the main bodies of literature which frame the two central questions posed by this book: 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 spe- cific areas; recruitment, amalgamations and inf luencing the labour pro- cess? The chapter is comprised of four sections. The first considers general theories of union policy-making, the second work on the labour process, the third literature appertaining to amalgamations, and the fourth litera- ture relating to recruitment. The value of these dif ferent perspectives, in explaining what was revealed by the research, is then commented upon in the empirical chapters. In the first section the ‘classic’ texts of the Webbs, Michels and Turner, concerning union policy-making, democracy and control of the deci- sion making process are considered (Webbs, 1920; Michels, 1913; Turner, 1962). This is then followed by a consideration of rank-and-filist writers who argue that full time of ficials act as conservative force in policy for- mulation (Clif f, 1970; Of fe et al, 1985; Callincos, 1982; Fairbrother, 2000; Bramble, 2008). Those scholars who assert that democratic control over policy-making can only exist if there is factional competition for policy authority, are then examined (Lipset, 1956; Edelstein and Warner, 1979). The first section also considers the later literature on the role played by political factions in determining union policy-making in Australian and British unions (Dickenson,...

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