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What to do with unions?

By David Hale - posted Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Could unions in Australia be a solution to ending poverty?

Ensuring workers get good pay and good conditions. Stopping workplace discrimination and ensuring that companies are doing good in the world.

If unions can do all these, it all sounds good.


Unions globally, however, are not all good, they are associated with thuggish behaviour, criminal activities and even deaths.

An irony is that some union members support the right to strike but not the right to go to work for those who want to. At times physically attacking workers trying to go to work, during a strike.

Yet, unions started for a good reason. Stopping the ill treatment of workers, by employers.

So, could unions be a good solution to ending poverty?

Well if they are, there is an issue. Union membership numbers have significantly declined in Australia.

An Australian Parliament House report noted, "The number of union members in Australia has declined from around 2.5 million in 1976 to 1.5 million in 2016. During the same period the union member share of all employees (or union density) has fallen from 51 per cent to 14 per cent. It also notes that "Industry union density is strongest in Education and training and Public administration and safety."


Why has the numbers in the private sector declined?

In 2018, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry argued that things were good for workers. They did not need a union, so less joined one.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions gave of course, other reasons.

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About the Author

David Hale is an Anglican University Lay Chaplain, staff worker for the Australian Student Christian Movement and a member of the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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