Why Has Trade Union Membership Shrunk So Dramatically In The Past Twenty Five Years? Will This Continue?

1986 words - 8 pages

Trade unions flourished in Australia throughout most of the 20th century, particularly in the 1920s and 1980s. Much of its popularity was due to the centralised conciliation and arbitration system which was introduced in 1904. The purpose of the conciliation and arbitration system was merely to settle disputes that extended beyond state borders. Trade unions then saw it as an opportunity to increase union members. Thus many unions are formed to which the conciliation and arbitration system gives unions a degree of stability and security. (S. Long, 1999, pp 1, 6) However it is after the 1980 which showed a rapid decline in membership. According to several researches few key factors have contributed to the dramatic decline in the past 25 years which are government and employer opposition, structural changes in the economy, shifts of trends in the workforce, amalgamation etc. these factors led the unions to a disastrous stage till this very day.Increased government and employer opposition has long been one of the key factors as to the contributory factors to the declining rate of union membership. The effects of government and legislations play a huge role on unions although many do not take political factors into account. Anti-union legislations have been unleashed, the first wave introduced by the 1996 Workplace Relations Act. The sole purpose of it was to eliminate the very existence of trade unions. The Act was for individual contracts to replace union-negotiated award agreements, and made effective industrial actions much more difficult by outlawing secondary boycotts, which prompted the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to denounce it as a violation or workers' human rights. After the fall of the first wave Reith's second wave was introduced into the Senate on the June 31, which was designed to finish off what was left of the country's ever-weakening trade union movement. However Reith is already planing a 'third wave' of reforms around completely revolutionising the award system and making it 'corporation-based' (R. Barwick, 1999; G. Mac Lennan, 23 August; B. Reid, 2003). In accordance to the news article Sun Herald (3 May 2004) Trade Unions believed that the Office of the Employment Advocate (OEA) was funded by the Federal Government to weaken trade unions. Thru the survey conducted by the Social Research Centre at the Australian National University it was found that a minority of employees were still forced into union membership. More than 5 percent of members felt they were not free to resign from their unions (J. O'Rourke, 2004). However, it would not be a surprise that the government are anti-unions as most unions have their own believes which differs them from governments and employers, thus making governments and employers think that disputes would be reduced without the involvement of unions. One of which occurred in Victoria was that the government took away workers right to have Anzac Day off as a public holiday. Unions then...

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