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An Analysis of Workplace Representatives, Union Power and Democracy in Australia

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  • David Peetz
  • Barbara Pocock

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to illuminate the views and experiences of workplace representatives in Australia in the context of falling union density, and to analyse factors that are most strongly associated with subjective union power at the workplace level, as perceived by delegates. The analysis relies on a large random survey of workplace delegates in eight significant Australian unions. The article describes the situation broadly facing delegates as shown by the survey and analyses a set of factors associated with the power of workers as perceived by delegates. We find that higher levels of reported activism among delegates are strongly associated with greater subjective union power. We also find that self-reported delegate confidence is also strongly associated with perceptions of higher union power, as is delegate's clarity about their roles. The data also show a strong association between perceptions of democracy within the union and union power. Support for delegates from the union office and organizers is also associated with higher levels of union power at the local level. The analysis provides some support for union renewal strategies associated with the 'organizing model' as applied in Australia and some other Anglo-Saxon countries that aim to increase the activism of workplace delegates through education, the provision of support for workplace delegates and more democratic union structures. Copyright (c) Blackwell Publishing Ltd/London School of Economics 2009.

Suggested Citation

  • David Peetz & Barbara Pocock, 2009. "An Analysis of Workplace Representatives, Union Power and Democracy in Australia," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 47(4), pages 623-652, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:brjirl:v:47:y:2009:i:4:p:623-652
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Simon R. de Turberville, 2004. "Does the ‘organizing model’ represent a credible union renewal strategy?," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 18(4), pages 775-794, December.
    2. Andrew Leigh & Justin Wolfers, 2006. "Competing Approaches to Forecasting Elections: Economic Models, Opinion Polling and Prediction Markets," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 82(258), pages 325-340, September.
    3. Edmund Heery, 2006. "Union Workers, Union Work: A Profile of Paid Union Officers in the United Kingdom," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 44(3), pages 445-471, September.
    4. Christopher L. Erickson & Catherine L. Fisk & Ruth Milkman & Daniel J. B. Mitchell & Kent Wong, 2002. "Justice for Janitors in Los Angeles: Lessons from Three Rounds of Negotiations," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 40(3), pages 543-567, September.
    5. David Peetz, 2005. "Trend Analysis of Union Membership," Australian Journal of Labour Economics (AJLE), Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School, vol. 8(1), pages 1-24, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gregor Murray & Christian Lévesque & Christian Dufour & Adelheid Hege, 2013. "Special Issue. Edited by: Gregor Murray, Christian Lévesque, Christian Dufour and Adelheid Hege," Industrial Relations Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(4), pages 340-354, July.
    2. Christian Lévesque & Gregor Murray, 2013. "Renewing Union Narrative Resources: How Union Capabilities Make a Difference," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 51(4), pages 777-796, December.
    3. David Peetz & Michael Alexander, 2013. "Special Issue. Edited by: Gregor Murray, Christian Lévesque, Christian Dufour and Adelheid Hege," Industrial Relations Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(4), pages 425-442, July.
    4. Catherine Le Capitaine & Gregor Murray & Christian Lévesque, 2013. "Special Issue. Edited by: Gregor Murray, Christian Lévesque, Christian Dufour and Adelheid Hege," Industrial Relations Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 44(4), pages 389-408, July.

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