|Issue No 43||24 February 2000|
Crosby to Unions: Don't Lose Your Nerve
The director of the ACTU-Labor Council Organising Centre has called on unions to hold their nerve in the wake of official figures showing a further decline in union membership.
Michael Crosby says the groundwork is only now, after six years, being laid for a concerted attack on declining numbers.
The ABS reported last week that union membership had fallen two per cent in the past year to just 25.7 per cent, with private sector rates now below twenty per cent.
But Crosby says the problems are structural, to which there is no quick fix. And he's heartened that more and more unions are deciding to take the hard yards to embrace an organising culture.
"In 1994 we set about the task of building our own expertise with the introduction of Organising Works," Crosby says. "Since then we have trained nearly 300 organisers in the latest techniques and adapted the US organising model to our own home grown situation.
"We have piloted innovative approaches and analysed their success. And the gains are starting to be made by a few unions, who on a branch basis have changed to an organising approach and achieved significant increases in membership.
"Our challenge is to convert this training into more wins, particularly in areas like call centres where there are thousands of workers crying out for the sort of protection union membership has always provided."
Crosby says the key issue facing the union movement is its ability to shift traditional unions structures and cultures towards organising.
"We need to ask ourselves some tough questions: How many organisers will we dedicate to doing nothing but organising new members? How many activists will we get to work as volunteer organisers? How much money are we spending on organising campaigns?
"The good thing is that [email protected] shows some signs of actually being implemented across the movement - demand for the Organsing Centres' courses is unprecedented, we've taken on eight extra staff. And even this week 200 people are turning up to a conference run by the Labor Council. That has to be a good sign."
Interview: Parting Gestures
Outgoing ACTU president Jennie George looks back on her time at the helm and charts some challenges for young women in the union movement.
Unions: While We Were Sleeping
It’s been a long hot summer for Australian workers - from the showdown in the Pilbara to the victorious National Textile workers. We look at the stories Workers Online missed while we were in the banana chair.
Media: Freudian Slips
The coverage of Jennie George’s final days as ACTU President were a case study in the art of psycho-tabloid.
Legal: Cookies’ Fortune
The breakaway union led by a man personally backed by the Prime Minister has been refused registration in a ruling that raises questions over the whole enterprise.
Politics: True Deceivers
In his controversial new book, Andrew Scott argues that Labor's rhetoric has outstripped its achievements.
Review: Rebel With a Cause
A new Michael Moore has emerged at the frontline of subversive television. His technique? Combining organising with silly suits.
Satire: Victorian ALP shock: "Apparently We're in Power!"
A recent survey conducted by the Victorian State ALP has revealed that the party is in government.
International: Right Hand Drive
The rise of the extreme Right in Austria carries some important lessons for our own society.
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Last Modified: 15 Nov 2005