Trade Union Organisers in Trade Union Organising Strategies: building workplace unionism or reinforcing bureaucracy




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De Montfort University


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Peer reviewed


This thesis considers the role of union full time officers in union organising strategies. Two decades of promoting union organising influenced by models developed by the AFL-CIO, has failed to arrest the decline of UK trade unions let alone produce evidence of renewal. Focusing mainly on one region in the UKs largest public sector trade union, Unison, the research provides for a detailed account of how organising strategies affect union work, presenting thick and deep data from full time officers (Regional Organisers), Regional Management, Senior National Officials, other Unison staff and lay representatives. The research focuses on the previously neglected role of full time officers in union organising strategies and considers how such strategies can change both the role of the full time officer and relations with other union constituencies. The research contributes to the ongoing study of trade union attempts to renew in the cold climate of globalisation and neo-liberalism. In doing so it also considers the much ignored area of the role of union bureaucracy in union organising strategies and the potential distortion or opposition it may present. Consequently the research also synthesises literature on union organising with classical theories of trade unions. Unison embraced the TUC’s promotion of grassroots organising and, it has been claimed, has been transformed into an organising union. The research questions this judgement by revealing a disconnection between organising strategies from workplace realities, resulting in an increasing managerialism and attempts to extend control over full time officers. A key consequence of these developments is the deterioration in the ability of Unison to represent members, both collectively and individually, leading to a potential crisis in representational capacity and ability providing the prospect for further union decline.



Decline, Renewal, Managerialism, Representation, Servicing, Neo-liberalism



Research Institute