Degree Name

Master of Industrial Relations – Research


School of Management and Marketing - Faculty of Commerce


Declining trade union density in Australia and overseas has been an issue of concern to the trade union movement and some industrial relations researchers. Many reasons have been proposed for this decline at both the macro and micro level, including changes in the structure of the economic base in Australia from manufacturing to services, and an increasingly hostile environment for unions. These issues are explored in a broad survey of the literature on declining union density.

Drawing on the author’s experience in the call centre industry, the thesis uses a marketing research technique to investigate perceptions about unions held by call centre employees. Recruiting members in call centres has proved challenging due to factors such as geographical location of some call centres, anti-union management and a high level of non standard employment in call centres and an increasing tendency to individualism.

Viewing the problem from a consumer behaviour perspective, the first issue was to find out what perceptions are held about unions by call centre staff and the second, how do these perceptions influence the union joining decision?

Primary research using marketing research tools, Laddering and Means End Chain Analysis, provide a qualitative perspective on the decision making process and the perceptions of unions which underlie the union joining decision. Laddering is the interview technique associated with Means End Chain Analysis. It was developed to elicit the data needed to be analysed using Means End Chain and develop the Hierarchical Value Map.

The Hierarchical Value Map indicated the links between the perceived attributes of unions: Powerful, Resources, Troublemaker, Costly and Outmoded and how these were linked to perceived consequences through to the goals or values held by the respondents of: Security, Social Value/Self Esteem, Achievement and Belonging.

Factors which were found to affect perceptions were first, whether the respondent was viewing the union joining decision from a collective or individualist perspective, and second, whether they were taking an instrumental, ideological or normative approach to union joining.

The use of cross discipline research methods offers further potential for research into trade union density.

02Whole.pdf (688 kB)



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.