Out of tune? union amalgamations and the Musicians Union of Australia

Grant Michelson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)


Relatively few trade unions were left untouched by the process of restructuring that swept through the Australian labour movement from the late 1980s. One such federal union that managed to remain autonomous despite such developments was the Musicians Union of Australia. Records indicate that the union has been engaged in amalgamation discussions on and off for a number of years;. this bas camouflaged substantial opposition to the idea within the union. Resistance to amalgamation had its origin in desires to preserve orgonisotional identity, to maintain the existing branch- based structure of the union, and to safeguard branch property and assets. Opposition was further intensified by certain historical differences between the Musicians Union of Australia and those unions with which it conducted negotiations. In this context the paper shows that despite considerable external pressure to participate in the amalgama tion process, the union did not produce the result intended by the primary sponsor (the Australian Council of Trade Unions) of tbe process. It also demonstrates how the industry-union model developed by tbe Australian Council of Trade Unions in 1987 was rejected by the Musicians Union. This suggests that theories of trade union amalgamation must incorporate a role for social agency effects and, in particular; the role played by full-time union officers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)303-331
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Industrial Relations
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes

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