How do trade unions manage themselves? A study of Australian unions’ administrative practices

Greg J. Bamber, Marjorie A. Jerrard, Paul F. Clark

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Dedication: We gratefully acknowledge the invaluable contributions to the research that we discuss here by our dear friend and colleague the late Dr Sandra Cockfield; we miss her greatly. We dedicate this article to her. For a tribute to her see : The article discusses issues rarely addressed in research on Australian unions: the internal management policies and practices of unions, including human resource management, budgeting and strategy formulation. Management matters because it creates processes and systems that focus activity on whatever objectives a union or other organisation wishes to achieve. Our main research question is ‘how do Australian unions manage their employees, budgets, and strategies?’ Our study builds on earlier studies of US, UK and Canadian unions by adapting a survey instrument used in these countries. The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) asked national and branch unions to complete our online surveys. Of the unions surveyed, a majority of respondents use systematic human resource management policies and practices. They have also adopted strategic planning and budgeting practices. Echoing international findings, Australian unions have increasingly professionalised their administration. These findings are important since they have implications for how Australian unions deal with the challenges they face, including their revitalisation efforts and their responses to changing regulatory contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)623-644
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Industrial Relations
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Industrial relations


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