Unions

WHY HAVE UNIONS WITNESSED A DECLINE
IN MEMBERSHIP IN RECENT YEARS?

ITRODUCTION

WHAT ARE UNIONS?

UNIONS ARE INFLUENTIAL AND BROADLY BASED
ORGANIZATIONS WHICH REPRESENT IT’S MEMBERS, WHO
ARE USUALLY EMPLOYEE’S. THEY HAVE BEEN AROUND FOR
A LONG IN AUSTRALIA AND EXPERIENCED MIXED
RESPONSES FROM THE GENERAL PUBLIC AS WELL AS
EMPLOYER’S.

OBJECTIVES OF A UNION: THE PRIMARY OBJECTIVE
OF A UNION IS TO PROVIDE OR IMPROVE THE WELL-BEING
OF IT’S MEMBER’S. IT WAS FORMED TO COUNER THE
SUPERIOR ECONOMIC POWER OF EMPLOYER’S. IT’S MOST
IMPORTANT FUNCTION IS TO MAXIMISE WAGES AND
SALARIES SUBJECT TO CERTAIN EMPLOYMENT
CONSTAINTS AND TO RAISE THE ECONOMIC CONDITIONS
UNDER WHICH WORK IS DONE.

WHY DO EMPLOYEE’S JOIN UNONS?

AN EMPLOYEE CAN BE MOTIVATED BY INSTUMENTAL
CONSIDERATIONS, IDEOLOGICAL BELIEFS OR SIMPLY
COMPULSION, BUT THERE SEEMS TO BE 3 MAJOR FACTORS
THAT LEAD EMPLOYEES TO BE UNIONIZED:

DISSATISFACTION WITH THE ECONOMIC ASPECTS
OF THE JOB
DESIRE TO INFLUENCETHOSE ASPECTS OF THE WORK
ENVIRONMENT THROUGH UNION ORIENTATED
MEANS
BELIEF THAT BENEFITS OF UNIONISM OUTWEIGH
EXPECTED COSTS

MOST COMMONLY, EMPLOYEE’S JOIN BECAUSE OF THEIR
COMMITTMENT TO THE VALUES OR PRINCIPLES OF
UNIONISM. (INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS- A CONTEMPORARY
ANALYSIS, DEERY S., PLOWMAN D., WALSH J. P 7.16)

WHY ARE UNIONS WITNESSING DECLINE?

THERE ARE MANY POSSIBLE REASONS TO SUGGEST THE
DECLINE IN MEMBERSHIP BUT 3 FACTORS STAND OUT:

1.) CHANGING COMPOSITION OF
EMPLOYMENT

- PRIVATE AND PUBLIC SECTOR

MOST OF THE EMPLOYMENT GROWTH THAT
OCCURED IN THE AUSTRALIAN ECONOMY IN
THE 80’S AND 90’S WAS CONFINED TO THE
PRIVATE SECTOR WHOSE UNION DENSITY
RATE OF 25 % WAS CONSIDERABLY LOWER
THAN THAT OF THE PUBLIC SECTOR WHICH
WAS 56 %.

IT WAS ESTIMATED THAT PUBLIC
ENPLOYMENT FELL ALMOST 8 %.

- STUCTURAL CHANGES IN THE MIX OF
INDUSTRIES, SECTORS AND OCCUPATIONS.

A CONTINUING DECLINE IN THE
MANUFACTURING SECTOR TO OTHER
SECTORS IN THE INDUSTRY. THE
PROLIFERATION OF NON REGULAR FORMS OF
EMPLOYMENT, PARTICULARLY CASUAL JOBS
AND SELF-EMPLOYMENTAT THE EXPENSE OF
TRADITONAL FULL TIME JOBS.

BUT UNIONS ARE SEEMED TO BE BLAMED FOR
THE LOW LEVEL REPRESENTATION OF
CASUALS. UNIONS DO NOT RECRUIT CASUALS
AS ASSIDUOUSLY AS FULL TIMERS, BECAUSE
UF THE HIGH ORGANIZATIONAL COSTS
INVOLVED.







- SIZE OF THE FIRMS

70 % OF SMALL WORKPLACES WITH 5-19
EMPLOYEE’S HAD NO UNION MEMBER’S
COMPARED WITH ONLY 4 % OF LARGE
WORKPLACES WITH 500 OR MORE
EMPLOYEE’S. MOREOVER, 67 % OF ALL
WORKPLACES IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR HAD
NO UNION MEMBERS COMPARED WITH LESS
THAN 1 % IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR.

- CHANGES IN THE GENDER COMPOSITION OF
THE WORKPLACE

FEMALE UNIONIZATION RATES HAVE BEEN
CONSIDERABLY LOWER THAN MALES,
DESPITE THE INCREASING NUMBER OF
WOMEN IN THE WORKPLACE OVER THE PAST
DECADE. THIS COULD BE BECAUSE OF:

1.) OCCUPATIONAL SEGMENTATION OF THE
LABOUR MARKET - WOMEN ARE ASSIGNED
TO LESS UNIONIZED OCCUPATIONS AND
INDUSTRIES (PART TIME WORK, LOWER
LABOUR FORCE ETC)

2.) SPECIFIC NEEDS OF WOMEN ARE NOT MET -
WOMEN FEEL THAT KEY ISSUES RELATING TO
THEM ARE NOT ADDRESSED WELL ENOUGH
AND THUS UNFAVOUR UNION MEMBESHIP.
WOMEN HAVE DIFFERENT TASTES AND
PREFERENCES AND ARE NOT TAKEN
SERIOUSLY IN THE WORKPLACE.

2.) CASUAL EFFECTS OF THE
BUSINESS CYCLE AND IN
PARTICULAR TO UNEMPLOYMENT

CHANGES IN THE OCCUPATIONAL STRUCTURE
AND COMPOSITION OF THE WORKPLACE, NOT
SO MANY LAYERS OF MANAGEMENT, BUT
MORE IMPORTANTLY TO UNEMPLOYMENT.

THERE WAS A SIGNIFICANT RISE IN THE RATE
OF UNEMPLOYMENT IN THE 80’S AND 90’S
WHICH HAD A NEGATIVE EFFECT.DURING
PERIODS OF ECONOMIC STAGNATION, UNIONS
HAVE TRADITIONALLY FOUND IT DIFFICULT
TO RETAIN UNEMPLOYED WORKERS AS
MEMBER’S.

3.) THE ACCORD

IN 1982 THE ACTU (AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL OF
TRADE UNIONS) AND THE LABOUR PARTY
WERE CONSTRUCTING AN ALTERNATIVE TO
NDEXATION AND THE AGREEMENT THEY
REACHED WAS AN IMPORTANT REASON FOR
LABOUR’S VICTORY IN 1983. THIS AGREEMENT
WAS KNOWN AS THE ACCORDAND IT WAS
FROM THIS TIME ON THAT A DECLINE IN
UNION MEMBERSHIP HAS BECOME
EVIDENT.THE ACCORD AGREEMENT PROVIDED
A FEATURE OF HELP TO DEVELOP AND
RESTUCTURE INDUSTRIES WHERE
UNEMPLOYMENT WAS THE HEAVIEST, BUT IN
RETURN, THE UNIONS HAD TO GIVE UP THIER
RIGHT TO INDUSTRIAL ACTION.

UNION RECRUITMENT DID NOT KEEP UP WITH
THE EXPANSION OF SERVICE INDUSTRIES,
AND DURING THE 80’S THE PROPORTION OF
UNIONISTS WAS FALLING. "IN THE MID 80’S,
THE UNIONS HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO COMPLY
WITH POLICIES THAT REPRESENT THE
EXTRAPOLATION OF LABOURISM IN
DIRECTIONS UNDREAMT OF BY UNIONS WHO
FIRST GAVE THE TERM MEANING".
(AUSTRALIAN UNIONS: B.FORD & D.PLOWMAN)

AUSTRALIAN UNIONS HAVE FACED AND ARE
FACING WIDE RANGING CHANGES IN
INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL MARKETS,