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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 10 The British Telecommunication Unions: 1980-1996


Chapter 10 The British Telecommunication Unions: 1980–1996 Introduction The period from 1980 to 1996 proved to be one of seismic change for the British telecommunications industry and its then principal trade union the POEU.1 In 1980 British Telecom (BT), as it had been renamed that year, was a Public Corporation and the monopoly provider of all domestic telephony services. By December 1984, BT had been stripped of its domes- tic telephony monopoly and had been privatised. This transformation of the British telecommunications industry heralded the introduction of competition into the domestic telephony market and presaged accelera- tion in the utilisation of new technologies, including digital, mobile and satellite systems. BT sought to deal with this rapidly changing industrial and technological environment by introducing significant alterations to the labour process, sizeable reductions in employment levels, and a total restructuring of the company’s industrial relations system. All of these developments resulted in a series of major challenges for the POEU, 90% of whose members, in 1980, were BT employees. The labour process, recruitment and amalgamation policies that the POEU and subsequently the NCU adopted in response to these politi- cal and industrial alterations are examined in this chapter. An analysis is also undertaken of the reasons why the union selected specific policy options. In addition, an assessment is made of the factors that inf luenced 1 The Post Of fice Engineering Union amalgamated with the Civil and Public Servants Association, Postal and Telecommunications Group in 1985, to form the National Communications...

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