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Understanding unions in workplaces

28 March, 2013

The big challenge for unions in Australia today is to become more involved in the broader scope of bargaining, according to an internationally recognised trade union academic currently visiting Monash University.

Visiting Professor in Human Resource Studies and Labour Relations, Patrice Laroche from the Université de Lorraine in France, says unions are still involved in workplace regulation in many workplaces, but the scope of bargaining tends to be limited to core terms and conditions such as pay, hours of work and holidays.

Professor Laroche said employers must recognise that unions play an important role in collective bargaining, but they must also improve the competence of their officials in order to be able to negotiate win-win agreements with the employers.

"It is important for union officials to be trained and qualified to better understand the challenges employers are facing. Collective bargaining is becoming more complicated and only people with appropriate qualifications will be able to balance the power between union representatives and employers,” Professor Laroche said.

Professor Greg Bamber from Monash University’s Department of Management, said it was interesting to hear how the trade union movement in the UK and France differs from the movement in Australia.

"Australian trade unions are struggling to recruit and retain members. They need to become more involved in the broader scope of bargaining such as training, workplace change, work organisation, work-life balance and gender issues in the workplace,” Professor Bamber said.

Professor Laroche has recently been a Visiting Professor at Cornell University and the University of California, Berkeley. His research activity is mainly devoted to the study of industrial and labour relations with emphasis on the analysis of the impact of unions on firm performance.

He is particularly interested in understanding how factors such as the nature of the union, the industrial relations climate, the level and intensity of the union involvement, the type of organisation and other managerial activities influence the relationship between unions and firm performance.

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Mctavish | Thursday, March 28, 2013, 2:22 PM
Only one trouble here Prof. Most of the shop stewards I have me onsite & who are the grass root voice of the unions would not be able to read let alone comprehend the points you make.
Graeme | Thursday, March 28, 2013, 3:58 PM
Unfortunately the Professor's advice is wasted on the Unions in Australia, as they can only see the WIIFM and everything evolves around more money for less work. I have to agree with you McTavish, people with an education and above average IQ are in short supply across the union movement and this really needs to be the starting point for Professor Laroche, if we are to see a change in culture in how the Unions engage with employers across Australia.