Inside the Unions: A comparative analysis of policy-making in Australian and British printing and telecommunication trade unions

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This paper consists of a comparative analysis of policy making in Australian and British telecommunications and printing trade unions. It tests empirically the validity of different models of union policy making and behaviour, whilst also assessing the strength of the hypothesis, that informal micro-political influences inside unions - such as personal friendships, enmities and loyalties - affect union policy making to a greater extent than is acknowledged in the literature.
In order to address the subject the following research questions were posed: How, and why, do unions adopt specific policies? What factors explain the different behaviour of similar unions, when faced with comparable policy choices? To ensure that policies of strategic significance were focused upon, three key areas were selected for study: recruitment, amalgamations and union efforts to influence the labour process.
As a former senior union officer I realised that trade unions were often loathe to publically disclose those factors which informed their policy making processes. For this reason a qualitative, interview rich, methodology was adopted, which involved a longitudinal study, in which over 220 officers and staff, of the relevant unions were interviewed.
The research revealed that policy making in all the featured unions was a rich and complex process, in which occupational, geographical, ideological and personality based factional groups all had a significant influence on policy makers, along with the institutional and political context within which the unions operated. The empirical evidence also showed that micro-political factors, in particular enmities and personal loyalties, along with the individual beliefs, values and ideologies of policy makers, profoundly influenced their policy choices. Finally the research corroborated the assertion that strategic policy choices, made by trade unions, have a significant affect on their success or failure as organisations.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2015
EventBritish Universities Industrial Relations Conference, : 2015 Annual Conference - Leeds University, Leeds, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Jun 201527 Jun 2015


ConferenceBritish Universities Industrial Relations Conference,
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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