Saturday, September 28, 2019

Why does the trade union movement, overall, in Australia, support the Essay

Why does the trade union movement, overall, in Australia, support the Labor Party - Essay Example Explaining the reasons behind the dwindling trade union membership, the paper scrutinises changes in the labour market composition, differences in the unionisation rate of certain groups of workers, along with the effects of conservative legislation, anti-union employer activity, relationships with federal government, etc. Finally, the paper details the trade union responses to membership decline, accessing whether those responses have been a success story. Introduction Ellem and Franks (2008), and Griffin (2002) write that trade unionism in Australasia (Australia and New Zealand) has not unexpectedly been shaped by their members’ prior trade union experience in Britain, given the numerous British migrants who had brought with them the values of their mother country; with the first formal unions having emerged amongst the most skilled employees, such as the Amalgamated Society of Engineers established as overseas branches of the ‘parent’ union in Great Britain (Sh eridan, 1975, as cited in Griffin, 2002). It’s also noteworthy that the first unions had been town-based; having experienced rapid growth during the roaring twenties and the post-war decade, as well as being on the wane during the Great Depression and the ‘swinging’ sixties, the trade unions flourished in Australia over most of the twentieth century – with at least two out of every five workers being members of a union. The then trade unions’ status and power are considered to have been derived from the centralised conciliation and arbitration system first introduced in 1904 with the Conciliation and Arbitration Act (Svensen, Small, Griffin, n.d.). Due to the significant benefits promised, and consequently delivered by the new industrial relations system, like employer’s recognition, legally enforceable minimum wages, working conditions, etc., the Australian trade unions enjoyed remarkable ease in achieving their goals, following a descending hierarchy of arbitral, political, and industrial strategies, in contrast to other countries. Thus, in many cases, Australian unions are considered to have won their battles on bureaucratic battleground, rather than on the industrial one, to a degree that made some commentators to argue whether the title ‘union’ is being used correctly with regard to them (Howard, 1977, as cited in Svensen, Small, Griffin, n.d.). It should be mentioned that the then Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, nowadays the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC), has adopted the traditional horizontal occupational structure of trade unionism as the basis for its own segmentation (Griffin, 2002). Starting with about 200 unions in 1901 with over 97Â  000 members which represented 6.1 per cent of the working force, the number of unions significantly jumped, following the 1904 legislation – 573 in 1911, with more than 360Â  000 members representing about 28 per cen t of the total number of employees. The post-World War One rationalisation had reduced that number to less than 400, followed by a slow decrease within the next decades – to finally drop below 300 until 1989. Overall, trade unionism in Australia until 1990 is characterised by three main features as follows: a skewed distribution of membership, multi-unionism at both industry and enterprise levels, and well-developed inter-union structures at national and state’s level but not at the enterprise one (Griffin, 2002). In other words, in 1990, 57 per cent of all unions (170 out

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