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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 8 The British Printing Unions: 1980-1996


Chapter 8 The British Printing Unions: 1980–1996 Introduction In this and the following three chapters, the main body of empirical evidence gathered for this book is outlined and analysed. All the chapters cover the period from 1980–1996 and consider the labour process, recruitment and amalgamation policies of the Australian and British printing and telecommu- nications unions. The manner in which these policies developed is outlined, whilst an analysis is undertaken of the reasons why specific policy choices were implemented. Comparisons are also drawn between the responses of the unions to similar institutional challenges in all three key policy areas. The reasons for similarities and variations in policy approaches are evaluated. This chapter specifically charts the labour process, recruitment and amalgamation policies of the British print unions from 1980–1996. The period was arguably the most tumultuous in the print unions’ history, during which their powerful inf luence over the labour process and their ability to enforce compulsory trade unionism was contested by employers and the State. This challenge was epitomised in two of the most significant industrial disputes of the late twentieth century; the Messenger Group Newspapers strike and the News International dispute. The policy choices that af fected the prosecution of these disputes, and the ef fect the outcome the disputes had on the subsequent policies of the print unions, are major themes of this chapter. Interwoven throughout the chapter there is an examination of why the strained and fractious relationship, between SOGAT and the NGA, improved...

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