Preliminary findings on waterside workers' responses to the role of unions following the 1991 Enterprise Based Agreements
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This paper explores pertinent details of the history of the stevedoring industry in Fremantle. The historical perspective sets the scene for examining the responses from both workers and management concerning the role of the unions following the 1991 Enterprise Based Agreement. These preliminary findings have been drawn from the qualitative data gathered in the course of semi structured interviews using general prompts to initiate discussion. A major category dealing with the role of the union emerged from the data. This paper examines the findings based on these responses.The findings indicate two concerns upon which most other categories of comments hinge. One is that the union is not seen by the workforce to be serving the needs of the members nor the industry. Resulting from this concern are calls to the union to look at itself and revise what it is there for now. Many of the comments reveal a perception held by the members that the union is primarily occupied with matters of self interest and lacking concern for the members. Workers have indicated that they want to have a central role negotiating important aspects of their working lives. The second concern is that these criticisms should not be interpreted as indicating that there is no need for the union. The findings strongly support the idea that the union as it is functioning now is not assisting the industry or the country in achieving international benchmarks of profitability. The categories of comments supporting this data reveal a clear call to the MUA to self-examine, evaluate, modify and then go forward. Clearly a mandate for change.
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