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Australian Council Of Trade Unions Essay, Research Paper
?Research the history, structure and activities of the Australian Council of Trade Unions as Australia?s peak union body. How is this body responding to the issues of declining membership and other changes in the workplace which have occurred within the last 10 years??
IntroductionThe Australian Council of Trade Unions or ACTU is Australia?s dominant association and governing body of the trade union movement in Australia. It is the only peak council and national centre which represents the Australian Workforce. The ACTU plays a substantial role in Australian politics. It is the representative of organised labour in wage negotiations with businesses and federal parliament. Although not officially affiliated with it, the ACTU maintains a strong association with the Australian Labor Party. The ACTU consists of 46 affiliated unions throughout Australia. Each state of Australia has a branch of the ACTU. Generally, these are called Labor Councils.
The ACTU speaks on behalf of most workers in most types of work including those in manufacturing, finance, government and the service sectors. Most of the ACTU?s policies and operational decisions are generally made through a democratic process, which takes place at a couple of gatherings:
An Executive of around 50 people who meet two or three times each year, this includes representatives from every union, ACTU officers, youth and indigenous representatives.
A Congress of around 800 delegates who represent all of ACTU?s affiliates which is held about every three years.
A Brief HistoryThe Australian Council of Trade Unions was established in May of 1927. On May 3rd, 1927 at the Interstate Trade Union Congress a motion was put forward by the Sydney Trades and Labour Council, the Melbourne Trades Hall Council and United Trades and the Labor Council of South Australia, saying that they wanted an, ?all Australian Council of Trade Unions.? This resulted in the creation of the Australian Council of Trade Unions or ACTU.
A committee of seven was elected and their role was to set out the goals and structure of the Council. Issues that affected the whole trade union movement were dealt with by delegates from affiliated unions of the ACTU. The ACTU was a very small under-resourced organisation for many years after its initial creation.
StructureUp until recently the Australian Council of Trade Unions has had five elected full-time officers. Last year, the ACTU decided to reduce this number to four after the resignation of two officers. The ACTU now has a President, a Secretary and two Assistant Secretaries who are employed on a full-time basis.
PresidentThe current president for the ACTU is MS Sharon Burrow. She was elected to this position and joined the ACTU on May 1, 2000.
Roles of the President include being a chairman of the Executive, the Council and Congress. The President is also responsible for the general conduct of that ACTU. Another role of the President is that he/she is the official spokesperson of the ACTU. He/she must represent and argue for the ACTU?s views when in public forums and dealing with the media.
SecretaryThe current secretary for the ACTU is Mr Greg Combet. He was became this position in February of 2000.
The secretary of the ACTU is generally responsible for the day-to-day running of the organisation, which can include both finance and staffing. The secretary must also implement the general policy directions of the ACTU.
Assistant SecretariesThere are currently two Assistant Secretaries of the ACTU. They are Bill Mansfield and Richard Marles.
Basically their job is to assist the Secretary. They are delegated specific polices and administrative responsibilities. Their responsibilities are clearly set out. Some of Bill Mansfield?s responsibilities include:
Vocational education and training
International representation of the ACTU to the International Labour Organisation (ILO)
Occupational Health and Safety
Richard Marles also has his own responsibilities and some of these are:
Legal Issues (e.g. Workplace Relations Act)
Social justice issues
Other Staff of the ACTUApart from the four full-time workers that the ACTU has working for them, the ACTU also employs over 35 specialists who are experts in the field. These specialists are not needed all the time and thus are only employed on a full-time basis. They are called upon when the ACTU requires advice or professional help in a particular field. Some of these added employees include:
Priority IssuesThe ACTU lists eleven different issues, which are their top priorities at this stage. They are:
(i)To increase the effectiveness of unions and the number of union members.
(ii)To achieve better outcomes from the process of enterprise bargaining for wage increases. A special priority is being given to improving wage outcomes for women workers.
(iii)To find ways to help workers find a balance between their employment and family life.
(iv)To respond effectively to the actions of conservative governments who are legislating to weaken the position of trade unions.
(v)To develop and implement policies to assist those most in need in the workforce eg the unemployed and low-wage earners.
(vi)To work with other like-minded organisations to achieve social progress in Australia.
(vii)To support the efforts by indigenous Australian to obtain a just outcome in their struggle for land rights and recognition of their culture.
(viii)To work closely with international organisations such as the ICFTU, the ILO and other national trade union centres to develop free and effective trade union organisations in our region.
(ix)To support moves towards an Australian Republic.
(x)To oppose nuclear testing in our region and to add our voice to those calling for peace and nuclear disarmament.
(xi)To support unions and progressive movements throughout the world in calling for the abolition of child labour.
Over the past ten years there has been a decline in the number of members in the ACTU. The ACTU believes that the reason for this is due to the changes in the composition of the Australian workforce and the structure of the economy.
There are about 8.7 million people in the Australian workforce. Of these, about 2.4 million, or 28% are in unions.
Between 1996 and 1998:
The number of women in unions fell from 28.1% to 25.8% and males in unions dropped to 30% from 33.5%.
In the public sector, union membership dropped to 55.4% from 52.9% and in the private sector membership was down to 21.4% from 24%
Full-time membership was 31.2%, down from 34.5%.
Part-time membership decreased to 20.2% from 21%.
Of all the industrialised nations, Australia has had the largest declination in union membership over the last ten years apart from New Zealand, which fell 22%. Australia fell 13% and the UK fell 12%, while USA only fell 3%.
The ACTU has found that Australia has had a big decrease in numbers because of trends in the workforce. There has been a shift from:
Government workers to the private sector and traditionally there has always been less union representation in the private sector.
Blue collar workers to white collar workers.
Full-time work to part time work.
Male to female employment.
Manufacturing industry to the service industry.
Large workplaces to smaller businesses.
To combat the declining membership rate, the ACTU has decided to put a considerable amount of resources into recruitment. This has resulted in a new campaign called ?Unions @ Work.?
Unions @ Work was created to address a few key issues which the ACTU believes are the cause for declining membership in unions.
Its main tactics are to:
Strengthen union presence in the Australian workforce by:
Establishing delegates and activists at every union workplace within Australia.
Greater education for delegates in order to recruit new members, bargain and handle workplace disputes.
Have increased funding for union education.
Strengthen collective structures in the workplace.
Create a union presence in growth areas by:
Recruiting members in up and coming industries where jobs are growing such as Information Technology etc.
Develop new campaigns where a great deal of time and effort go into the planning.
Education union delegates in fields, which are not solely in their workplace.
Send staff to gain specialist training from overseas unions.
Ensure that the ACTU has the latest technology features by:
Making sure that union representatives and delegates are ?online.?
Using the internet for advice, services and data access.
Creating union call centres for delivery of union services.
Creating a single contact number for workers wishing to contact unions.
The ACTU has sent representatives overseas to find what strategies they have in place for the combat of declining membership. The representatives found a few key strategies used throughout other world unions. They are:
To direct union finances and staff resources into the organisation and recruitment of members especially in industries where there is no or very little union presence.
To introduce more cost-effective ways of union services to members, by using call centres and information technology.
To create specialist organising teams, to develop more strategic campaigns designed for the recruitment of members.
To form alliances and relations with other groups within the community.
BibliographyAustralian Council of Trade Unions website: http://www.actu.asn.auAustralian Bureau of Statistics website: http://www.abs.gov.auThe Sydney Morning Herald: http://www.smh.com.auBritannica 97 Encyclopaedia CD.
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