Neoliberal workplace reforms in the Antipodes: What impact on union power and influence?

Len Perry, University of Technology, Sydney


Union membership and work stoppages due to strikes—two indicators of union power and influence—have been in decline in the Antipodes (Australia and New Zealand) and the United States in recent decades. Meanwhile, attitudes to unions in Australia seem to have become more positive. I examine how much legislated neoliberal workplace reforms have been responsible for the decline in union membership and work stoppages in the three countries. Evidence indicates that union membership and stoppages would have declined in the absence of the workplace reforms, though it is likely that the declines would not have been quite as rapid as they turned out to be. The emergence of more positive attitudes in Australia to unions is attributed to declining union power reflected in falling membership rates and a relative absence of disruptive union behaviour.

Dr Len Perry <> is Associate Professor in the School of Finance and Economics at the University of Technology, Sydney. His recent publications have examined the decline in union influence, measuring productivity, and the apparent effect of labour market reform on economic performance.

Download in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format, 453 Kb.