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Kate Hawkesby: What's the point in joining a union these days?

Kate Hawkesby ,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 6 March 2019, 6:58AM
Maybe we all feel more empowered as individuals these days and unions have had their time? Photo / Getty Images


So we learn this week that fewer people than we actually thought belong to a union.

Why'd we think union membership was so strong? I guess the amount of strikes, and the extent of media coverage, lulled us into thinking just about everybody belongs to a Union.

But not so. Just 10 percent of people in small and large businesses are union members. 
That means a whopping 90 per cent are not.

It's surprising given the amount of noise unions make and how much weight they're given, they're extremely active in the media and I suppose that just means they're doing their job.

But does the low number of people actually belonging to one, mean most people are (shock horror) actually happy in their jobs? That most people are happy with their employer-employee relationship and that most people don't need or want mass blanket representation?

I mean it's not like we don't know the unions exist, and it's not like they don't recruit. So if we wanted to join them, nothing's stopping us.

The unions find this figure disappointing - and I guess you would if complaints are your stock and trade, but if people are happy to negotiate their own way in the world, why would we be upset by that?

Maybe we all feel more empowered as individuals these days and unions have had their time? 

It is a good reminder of how much something gets a spotlight, and in theory can loom large, versus the reality: which is often less impressive.

It reminded me of another story I read this week on feminism.

Well the reality is they're not.

In fact the numbers of people calling themselves feminists is dwindling.

Polling in the UK and the US showed fewer than 1 in 5 young women would call themselves feminist.

Is that not surprising? Is this not a time of peak global awareness of women's rights, the #MeToo movement, body positivity, calling out sexism?

So how has identifying as 'feminist' not gained more traction?

A US study of 27,000 people found that two-thirds of respondents believed in gender equality - but when it came to the term 'feminist', many found it unrelatable.

So do unions, and the feminist movement, need to work harder to attract a more diverse group of people?

Do they need to redefine themselves as more inclusive?

Or are we all just a bit more comfortable in our own skin these days?

ON AIR: Mike Hosking Breakfast

6AM - 9AM