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Are Trade Unions In Australia Becoming Unnecessary?

1884 words - 8 pages

Good morning fellow colleagues of the ACTU. We are having this conference today to discuss the recent decline in trade union membership. As you know, many things influence membership and we need to take drastic measures to revive the trade union movement in Australia. If trade unions don't strive for economic liberation, who will? We need major restructuring to continue to make the social and industrial improvements that have made us so influential and of fundamental importance in the past. The subject I will be addressing you on today is "Trade Unions: are they becoming unnecessary?"As I mentioned before, trade union membership is declining. Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics illustrate that in the year to August 2002, 69 thousand people dropped out of their unions. Even more disturbing than this is the fact that less than 25% of our entire workforce belongs to a trade union. This trend in decreasing membership is not limited to Australia, it has become an issue worldwide. Though membership is now rising annually trade union restructuring still has a long way to go if we are going to regain our former power and influence. In spite of this, as we all know, trade unions are still very much alive and are far from becoming unnecessary. Even the fact that we are gathered here now demonstrates how dedicated we are to maintaining our tradition of gathering our collective strength to protect employees' interests.The definition of a trade union is an association of wage earners who organise for the principle purpose of maintaining or improving conditions of work, hours of labour, length of annual leave or wage rates. They join together as they have more bargaining power in a union than as individuals. This gives them significant weight in the labour market and the ability to manipulate it by restricting the supply of labour through strikes and exercising very powerful bargaining power in wage negotiations and other industrial relations matters.We are made up of 46 affiliated unions representing 1.8 million Australian employees. This is not good enough as there are 9.2 million in our workforce. Formed in 1927, we have represented workers rights by being the national voice of the trade union movement. Many of you would work in areas such as putting forward major industrial tribunal cases, providing a voice in the Industrial Relations Commission, inputting into general economic policy debates or co-ordinating industrial action. We also try to change the bigger picture by using our influence to change government policy on industrial relations laws.Individual trade unions play an integral part in our industrial relations systems. Trade unions have been in existence in Australia since the mid 1850's and have been about unifying workers to campaign for and defend their rights. They can negotiate on behalf of the worker about wages, working hours, holidays or changes to working practices and follow up issues like back pay, overtime and unfair...

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