Union strategies in representing ‘new’ workers : the comparative case of UK and Australian retail unions

Lynch, Samantha, Pyman, Amanda, Bailey, Janis, & Price, Robin A. (2009) Union strategies in representing ‘new’ workers : the comparative case of UK and Australian retail unions. In 15th World Congress of the International Industrial Relations Association (IIRA): The New World of Work, Organisations and Employment, 24–27 August 2009, Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre, Sydney.

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This paper is a comparative exploratory study of the changing nature of employee voice through trade union representation in the retail industry in the UK and Australia. In both countries, the retail industry is a major employer and is one of the few private sector service industries with significant union membership (Griffin et al 2003). The relevant unions, the Distributive and Allied Workers Union (USDAW) and the Shop, Distributive and Allied Union (SDA), are the fourth largest and largest unions in the UK and Australia respectively. However, despite this seeming numerical strength in membership, the characteristics of the industry provide unique challenges for employee voice and representation. The significance of the study is that any extension of representation and organisation by unions in the retail sector is valuable socially and politically, given that retail workers are often categorised a s vulnerable, due to their low pay, the predominance of disadvantaged labour market groups such a s women and young people, workers’ atypical employment arrangements and, in the case of the UK, variable levels of union recognition which inhibit representation (Broadbridge 2002; Henley 2006; Lynch 2005; Roan & Diamond 2003; Reynolds et al 2005). In addition, specifically comparative projects have value in that they allow some variables relating to the ‘industry’ to be held constant, thus reducing the range of potential explanations of differences in union strategy. They also have value in that the research partners may be more likely to notice and problematise taken-for-granted aspects of practices in another country, thus bringing to the fore key features and potentially leading to theoretical innovation. Finally, such projects may assist in transnational diffusion of union strategy.

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ID Code: 27757
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Unions, New workers, UK , Australian , Retail Unions
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > COMMERCE MANAGEMENT TOURISM AND SERVICES (150000) > BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT (150300) > Industrial Relations (150306)
Divisions: Past > Research Centres > Australian Centre for Business Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2009 [please consult the authors]
Deposited On: 05 Oct 2009 03:15
Last Modified: 14 Jul 2017 14:40

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