New Report: Desperate Unions Cling To Power

Unions force themselves on uninterested workforce

As trade union membership continues a 20-year decline, unions are taking extreme measures to retain their influence over an unwilling workforce.

Only one in five full-time workers are still taking out union membership. The majority of these are employed in the public sector. An overwhelming proportion of Australians engaged in the private sector are choosing not to join a trade union, with 87% un-unionised.

Wages have risen steadily over the same period, suggesting that there is no correlation between trade union membership and real wage increases.

Young people are refusing to join trade unions. The steepest decline in union membership is among those under the age of 60. As the membership base ages, 65% of union members had maintained their membership for five years or more; only 10% of trade union members had been a member for a year or more.

Unions are turning to legislation to maintain power

Trade unions have responded to declining membership by pressuring the Federal government to enshrine their power over employees and employers through legislation. The Industrial Relations Act of 1988 had 352 sections running to 92 pages. By 2009 the Fair Work Act had blown out to 800 sections running to 366 pages – quadrupling in just under 20 years.

The unions have also moved to consolidate their power by securing the right to be flown in to remote sites at the cost of the employer, even if none of the on-site employees are trade union members. They have new bargaining powers over greenfields sites which threaten to shut down work before it can even begin. Unions have also muscled in while the Labor Party is in power federally to obtain a commitment from the government for $1.5 billion in salary supplements which will only be available to employers who sign enterprise bargaining agreements.

“People don’t want union interference in the workplace,” says Adam Bisits, President of the HR Nicholls Society, “They know instinctively that the unions are in it for themselves. That they’re resorting to legislation to shore up their influence shows that it’s about power more than anything else.”

For more detail, download Desperate Unions Cling to Power

The HR Nicholls Society Annual Conference 2013, Unions in Control, will be held on July 8 in Melbourne.

HR Nicholls Society President Adam Bisits is available for interview.


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  1. […] HR Nicholls, calling for industrial relations reform, infers that such “extreme measures” are disproportionate to the reality of union support in the workplace. For a link to HR Nicholl’s media release, click  here […]

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