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Unions part of the solution, or part of the problem? A challenge to unions to modernise

David Peetz writes in The Conversation (23.2.15):

‘Since the 1980s, Australia, like many industrialised countries, has experienced rising inequality and growing concentration of income, wealth and power. Within the workplace, there are major concerns about working hours, work intensity, work-life balance, pressures on women, “overemployment” and underemployment, demands on employees for flexibility, insecurity, micro-management of time and managerial efforts to control “culture”.

‘Upward redistribution of income and power has accompanied the spread of “market liberal” or “neoliberal” policies in most industrialised countries – without any distinguishable improvement in productivity to justify it.

‘In this grim context, are unions part of the solution, or part of the problem?’

Peetz concludes: ‘In the end, if unions are to be part of the solution, there is much to be done. It requires action in developing and empowering workplace delegates and members, democratising union processes, strengthening articulations between levels, developing framing capabilities, managing governance, becoming learning organisations, deepening links and networks with other organisations and movements in the community, and using such links to build and articulate an alternative vision of society. It is a huge task. But if unions don’t do this, who will?’

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