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

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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
Pages (from-to)623-644
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Industrial Relations
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


  • budgeting and financial planning
  • human resource management
  • strategic planning
  • union administrative practices
  • Unions

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