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Union Membership Decline Essay

The Decline in Union Membership in Australia Essay

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The Decline in Union Membership in Australia

TOPIC – The major issue today facing the Australian trade union movement has been the decline in union density. What have been the causes, and how have the unions responded to the challenge.

Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in 2000, show that the decline in Australian union membership continues, despite the efforts of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), to stop the slide. The ABS reports that trade union membership has dropped to 28 percent of the total workforce, compared to 1992, where there was 40 percent. (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2000.)

Previous ABS findings show that these recent figures are part of a general trend, with…show more content…

The most important function of a union is to maximise the wages and salaries of its members (Deery, Plowman, and Walsh, 2000).

Why do employees join unions? There are a number of reasons that an employee may join a union but three major factors are evident. They are; dissatisfaction with economic aspects of the job; a desire to influence those aspects of the work environment through union orientated means; and, a belief that the benefits of unionism outweigh the expected costs (Deery et al, 2000).

With the benefits of the objectives of a union evident, why has Australian unions witnessed a decline in membership? There are many reasons to suggest a decline in membership, but three main factors stand out. They are; the changing composition of employment; the casual effects of the business cycle; and, the introduction of the Accord (Deery et al, 2000).

The changing composition of employment relates to the change in the structure of the workforce. Job growth has become generally greater in those segments of the labour force with relatively low levels of trade union membership, and a contraction of employment among the more highly unionised segments of the labour force (Healey, 1995). Most of the employment growth that occurred in the 80’s and 90’s was confined to the private sector whose union density was considerably lower to that of the public sector. In addition to that, the constant decline in the manufacturing industries, where unionisation is high, compared to

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