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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 11 The Australian Telecommunication Unions: 1980-1996


Chapter 11 The Australian Telecommunication Unions: 1980–1996 In this chapter the Australian telecommunication unions’ labour pro- cess, recruitment and amalgamations policies are analysed. This evaluation includes an appraisal of the various inf luences which shaped the judg- ments of the unions policy makers. A comparison of how the ATEA and the APTU responded to similar institutional challenges is undertaken, whilst the reasons for similarities or dif ferences in approaches are sought. During the period under review the Australian telecommunications industry altered substantially, due to rapid changes in the technological, industrial and political environment. The development of digital, satel- lite, and microwave technology reduced employment levels in Telecom Australia (TA) and led to a decline in the union membership. Although Federal Government plans to privatise TA were repulsed by the unions until after 1996, the industry’s deregulation in 1992 presented the unions with many serious industrial and recruitment dif ficulties. These problems were augmented by TA’s desire to respond to the fast changing technological environment, by seeking higher levels of productivity and greater control over the labour process. The ability of the ATEA and the APTU to respond to these challenges, in a co-ordinated manner, was greatly inhibited by bitter occupational and factional enmities, the sources of which are also explored in this chapter. 280 Chapter 11 The labour process At the beginning of the 1980s the ATEA and the APTU had achieved a considerable level of inf luence over the labour process. Membership of local and national joint negotiatory...

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