An investigation of the union membership of teachers in Victorian Catholic schools during the period 1994 to 2004


Wilson, Terence Henry. (2008). An investigation of the union membership of teachers in Victorian Catholic schools during the period 1994 to 2004 [Thesis].
AuthorsWilson, Terence Henry
Qualification nameDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

This thesis examines the extraordinary counter trend by teachers in Victorian Catholic schools, during the period 1994 to 2004, to associate or join their trade union, the Victorian Independent Education Union (VIEU). During the period 1994 to 2004, while nearly all trade unions in Australia, including those in the education sector, were in decline, VIEU's membership and union density consistently rose. While the epistemological framework of the research is based on a constructivism using an interpretivist approach, in particular symbolic interactionism, the traditional ontological dichotomy between positivism and interpretivism was rejected. A continuum was substituted whereby the methods and methodology used were an eclectic, pragmatic mix recognising the complementary sources of positivism and interpretivism. Statistics, historical document research, legal documents and interview data were used as appropriate. Symbolic interactionism's successive Exploratory and Inspection Stages were employed to sift and sort the data gathered. Following an in-depth analysis of the literature on union density decline in Australia and worldwide, a three phased Exploratory Stage examined all possible explanations offered for the decline in the membership of unions and applied these to the opposite trend experienced in VIEU. Shister's general model of union growth and decline was adopted as an initial conceptual framework. Those explanations that promised a possible explanation for VIEU's counter trend were then examined in depth in the Inspection Stage. The Inspection Stage data demonstrated that Shister's model was inadequate in that it did not allow for sufficient input by employees and employers in positively influencing union membership and union, nor did it allow for the leadership of the union to overcome the combined negative effects of an unfavourable work environment and unsupportive socio-legal framework.;A new conceptual framework was developed that incorporated the two new factors and allowed for more than a simple equal and interdependent interplay between the three major factors outlined by Shister. Leadership proved to be a critical factor and the thesis concludes by making a number of recommendations for practitioners in the area of industrial relations in Australia with respect to halting what, up until now, has been regarded as an inexorable decline in union membership and density.

PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Research GroupSchool of Educational Leadership
Final version
Publication dates25 Aug 2008
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