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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 12 Summary and Findings


This chapter summarises the findings of this book and juxtaposes the empir- ical data against the theories of union policy-making set out in the literature review. In doing so it outlines the similarities and dif ferences in the labour process, recruitment and amalgamation policies adopted by the featured Australian and British unions, whilst exploring the reasons behind their responses to the serious challenges they faced from 1980 to 1996. The chapter goes on to highlight the significant answers the research has uncovered to the two central questions which were posed at the outset of this book: How, and why, do unions adopt specific policies? What fac- tors explain the dif ferent behaviour of similar unions when faced with comparable policy choices? Time is also spent in considering whether the hypothesis put forward at the start of this book, that union policy-making was significantly af fected by micro-political factors, such as personal friend- ships, loyalties and enmities, has any validity. Structurally the chapter is similar to the literature review. Initially it juxtaposes the various general theoretical explanations of union pol- icy-making against the empirical evidence. Then it contrasts the various hypotheses put forward in the literature, concerning the labour process, recruitment and amalgamations, with the reality of policy-making in all the featured unions. 310 Chapter 12 Classical theorists The assertion of classical theorists (Webbs, 1897, 1920; Michels, 1913) that union policy is controlled by a small coterie of union of ficials, who oper- ate in an oligarchic fashion, is not supported...

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