Peak Unions in Australia: Origins, Purpose, Power, Agency

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Bradon Ellem, Ray Markey, John Shields
Federation Press, 2004 - Central labor councils - 274 pages
This innovative and comprehensive book is the first detailed study of the making and development of Australian peak unions. For over 150 years, peak unions have been central part of the Australian industrial relations landscape. They remain by far the most significant institutional form of inter-union cooperation in the country at the national, state, local and industry scales.They are remarkably varied bodies which have played vital roles in union growth and labour renewal. Some are strong, some weak and a select few have even come close to being unaccountable, a state within a state. This multi-author book systematically examines their nature and influence at different times, in different places. It adopts a unique combination of comparative method and conceptual insights from the fields of industrial relations, history, geography, organisational studies and political science.Its 13 chapters explore the whole range of peak unions and labour councils, from local bodies in Rockhampton, the Illawarra, Wagga Wagga and Broken Hill, through State councils in Western Australia, Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales, to the national peak union body, the Australian Council of Trade Unions.The book allies this empirical diversity with an essential theoretical cohesion. It opens with two conceptual chapters which develop a model for explaining the formation and changing purpose and power of peak unions, a model which resonates through all the subsequent chapters.

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Very informative and thorough - a must read for people in unionism

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