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Lifting their ‘voice’: how unions can arrest membership decline and stay relevant

Michael Barry writes in The Conversation (3.5.16) about ways that unions can reverse declining membership levels and give a greater ‘voice’ to the interests of more workers from diverse fields.

‘Australia’s industrial relations system has been transformed since the late 1980s. The decline of compulsory arbitration and the onset of bargaining decentralisation have led to greater disparity of wages and working conditions in a regulatory system that leaves behind those who do not possess a strong bargaining position.

‘Under these conditions it would seem clear that unions have a role to play in preserving minimum standards for all workers and in bargaining enterprise agreements for their members.

‘Yet unions now represent less than one in five workers. This leaves many workplaces union-free zones.

‘So, how can unions rebuild their fortunes? Australian unions are by no means alone in facing this challenge. And organising tactics alone will not redress core issues related to image and relevance in an increasingly individualised world.’

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