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Inside the Unions

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

Series:

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 4 The British Printing Unions: Pre-1980

Extract

Introduction In this and the subsequent three chapters, the historical structures and political processes of the British and Australian telecommunication and printing unions are outlined. How these frameworks helped to shape con- temporary policies, and the attitudes of policy makers, is a major feature of all four chapters. More specifically the respective unions’ development of labour process, recruitment and amalgamations policies is analysed, and the manner in which these strategies shaped contemporary decision making is considered. This chapter focuses on Britain’s printing unions and the manner in which the printing craft and non-craft unions historically developed in markedly dif ferent fashions. Initially the chapter details the evolvement of the craft and non-craft unions’ structures and political process, before turning to the development of the unions’ recruitment, amalgamation and labour process policies. In doing so it highlights how, firstly the craft, and subsequently the non-craft unions, came to rely heavily on the ef ficient operation of the pre-entry closed shop, in order to deliver high member- ship density and significant levels of inf luence over the labour process. How the various print unions’ historical approaches to policy-making, in all three featured areas, shaped contemporary decision makers attitudes and af fected the print unions policies is also investigated. 64 Chapter 4 Structures and political processes: the craft printing unions The knowledge and respect that all the interviewees from the British print- ing craft unions displayed towards their respective union’s history and structures, was striking. This was not the norm amongst participants from...

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