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Industrial relations, occupational safety and health, and union organising in Australia: lessons and opportunities

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Abstract:

This paper examines the intersection between recent changes in industrial relations legislation and union involvement in health and safety in Australia. Of specific interest is how unions prioritise occupational safety and health concerns against other workplace issues that often form the basis of union campaigns. During this examination, claims that unions can use health and safety as an organising tool are evaluated from data collected in interviews with union officials based in regional and metropolitan centres in Queensland, Australia. Our evidence supports the view that unions have much to gain by focusing on members' health and safety concerns, especially in an environment where union protections have been systematically weakened under industrial relations regulations. However, we also found that organising efforts around occupational safety and health remain isolated, with most unions continuing to focus on member interests within the realm of mainstream industrial relations.

Keywords: INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS; ORGANISATION OF WORK; POLICY; REGULATION; STRUCTURE OF WORK; TRADE UNION ORGANISING STRATEGIES; TRADE UNION RENEWAL; WORKER REPRESENTATION

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2006

More about this publication?
  • Policy and Practice in Health and Safety is an international journal published twice a year. It's designed as a forum for academic and policy discourse on health and safety and is aimed at those who practise, tutor, research or study health and safety regulation and management. All published papers have undergone a double-blind refereeing process by at least two referees.

    Policy and Practice is an important source of reference for anyone studying or working at a professional level in health and safety. It'll help to keep you up to speed on developing debates on a wide range of topics.

    The editor, David Walters, Professor of Work Environment at the Cardiff Work Environment Research Centre, leads Policy and Practice's authoritative international editorial board. The journal addresses practical workplace health and safety issues as well as focusing on a broader context - the social, economic and political discussions that shape employment and work.

    Subjects covered in recent issues include comparisons of different regulatory and management frameworks, case studies of occupational safety and health in individual locations, and the impact of economic and political factors on health and safety.
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