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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 9 The Australian Printing Unions: 1980-1996

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Chapter 9 The Australian Printing Unions: 1980–1996 Introduction This chapter examines the labour process, recruitment and amalgamation policies of the Australian print unions from 1980 to 1996. It uses empirical evidence to analyse the process of policy-making, whilst it also assesses the various inf luences which shaped the judgements of union decision makers. In the period under review the Australian printing unions faced substantial challenges, owing to technological innovation and increased regional competition, which resulted in considerable reductions in employ- ment levels. These technological and economic developments occasioned employer challenges to union inf luence over the labour process and pre- cipitated membership decline in traditionally strongly organised areas. An analysis of the policy choices the unions made in response, and the reasons behind their selection, lies at the heart of this chapter. The simi- larities and dif ferences in the policies of the British and Australian print unions, when faced with alike institutional and economic challenges, are also considered. Finally, woven throughout the chapter, there is an exami- nation of the ef fect on policy of the complex and, at times, dysfunctional relationships that existed within the various layers of the PKIU’s, highly federated, policy-making structures. 206 Chapter 9 The labour process Ref lecting on the way the PKIU dealt with the introduction of new tech- nology and alterations to the labour process during the early 1980s, a former PKIU full-time of ficer observed: New technology is like a bus: either you get on it and try and inf...

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