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Inclusive union organisation in Australia


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Faifua, D 2006 , 'Inclusive union organisation in Australia', paper presented at the 14th International Employment Relations Association Conference: Family-friendly Employment Policies and Practices: An East-West Perspective on Work-life Balance, 19-23 June 2006, Hong Kong.

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Australian unions face increasing pressure to position women, and people of race, in union
official roles as a means of organising and representing the diverse workforce now
participating in the labour market. Diverse groups of people, in particular women, but also
younger and older workers and people of different race and sexual preference are
increasingly recognised as union members and leaders of the future.
The dominance of Anglo-Saxon male leaders in union organisation has been well
documented and there is a growing body of literature commenting on the need for inclusive
industrial relations. However, little is known about the progress being made in Australia with
respect to the positioning of women, and people of race, in union official roles. On the one
hand, there is a developed body of literature on gender and industrial relations, which argues
for the inclusion of women in union organisation. On the other hand, there has been little
acknowledgement of the potential of women, and people of race in union organisation. We
aim to lessen the gap between theory and empirical reality by developing an approach that
moves beyond strict feminist perspectives or the reproduction of Anglo-Saxon norms. We
argue for the development of a model of union organisation that reflects the reality of the
diversity of officials and membership and therefore their potential in official union roles.
This paper asks four questions in the development of a model of inclusive union organisation.
First, what are the drivers of the ‘Workchoices’ legislation Australia, which heighten the need
to develop work and family policies; second, what theoretical assumptions stultify
understandings of inclusive union organisation; third, what causal explanations can be
adopted to empirically test inclusive union organisation; fourth, what characterises the
particular interest in women’s participation, as opposed to a broader inclusiveness in
Australia unionism.
Finally, we discuss preliminary findings based on a pilot study in Tasmania Australia, which
suggests inclusiveness is valued at union membership level but not reflected in the
substance of work and family policies and/or priority given to work and family policies,
through democratic or equal representation, or by internal union policy which links directly
with external community issues.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Authors/Creators:Faifua, D
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© IERA Conference 2006

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