Members attitudes towards the process of selecting organisers in a Victorian trade union.

Fallon, P 2009, Members attitudes towards the process of selecting organisers in a Victorian trade union., Masters by Research, Management, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Members attitudes towards the process of selecting organisers in a Victorian trade union.
Author(s) Fallon, P
Year 2009
Abstract The continued role of Australian trade unions has never been more precarious. Federal Government attempts to relegate trade unions as mere historical artefacts have witnessed an equally strong campaign for survival by the union movement. One of the ways that it is doing that is by the now-dominant emphasis on union organising. This thesis looks at these developments and investigates the efficacy of current organiser selection processes for this aim. Trade union organisers perform a variety of functions including recruiting new delegates and members and the representation of current members in workplace disputes. Organisers are also involved in workplace agreement negotiations with a sometimes-immediate effect on the conditions of work for their members. While they represent only a part of union structure and activity, their visibility and interaction with members at the workplace has led many in the trade union movement to recognise their role as being pivotal to trade union renewal. In 1994, this recognition culminated in the ACTU’s development of the ‘organising works’ program, which recruited a diverse group of mostly young, tertiary educated men and women, in the hope of rejuvenating the union movement and arresting the then heavy decline in trade union membership. There are many positive aspects to this development; however, what is not clear is how members of trade unions perceive these new, appointed, organisers. This thesis hopes to provide some insights into this question.

As the ACTU project might suggest, recent research supports the contention that recruitment of trade union organisers is increasingly occurring ‘outside’ of traditional processes (such as election by the membership). This research aims first, to identify the characteristics of trade union organisers, and second, to ascertain the attitudes and perceptions of union members towards both the organisers and their selection process.

The study employs a mixed-methodology case-study approach applying sequential quantitative and qualitative data. The trade union chosen for this study is the Victorian state branch of the Australian Services Union (ASU) (Private Sector Branch). Opinions of the union membership to branch organiser characteristics are analysed through survey responses, interviews, and contextualised with existing literature. Evidence gathered during this research points to a complex interplay of perception and reality. While many members automatically respond to the need for democracy in unions (in relation to organisers), in-depth questioning of this response provides a very different picture.

While this investigation revealed a (perhaps not unsurprising) preference among trade union members that their officials be elected; it also revealed an unexpected dimension, that is, that these members knew very little about the processes of their union. What is argued in this thesis, is that the employment of an ‘organising model’ does not, in itself, aid perceptions about unions. Despite preferences for democratically elected organisers, factors such as instrumentality, reliability, and familiarity are more important. In drawing these conclusions, this research points to the fundamental need for trade unions to ensure a greater awareness of their own function, limitations, and possibilities.
Degree Masters by Research
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Management
Keyword(s) None supplied
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Created: Wed, 27 Jun 2012, 12:08:21 EST by Guy Aron
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