The meaning and making of union delegate networks

Published 2015

Publication Type: The Economic and Labour Relations Review, 26: 596-613, first published on November 12.

Author(s): Peetz, D. & Murray, G., Muurlink, O, May, M.

Networks are a subject of growing research interest. Yet union networks, particularly networks of delegates, and ways to build them, are still poorly understood. This is a study of the meaning that workplace union delegates assign to networks of support. It explores the characteristics of effective delegate and union networks and influences upon them. Effective networks are a combination of strong and weak ties, such that delegates sometimes do not recognise they are part of a network. Our three-stage research methodology involved delegate focus groups, a paper-based self-completion questionnaire of recently trained delegates (N = 473) and a follow-up telephone survey (N = 145). It found that Organisers were key to creation of internal workplace networks (although they did not necessarily establish them) and in providing a bridge for delegates with external networks. They were the key support person for many delegates. Networks took a variety of forms. Only a minority were formalised. A majority were mainly internal to the workplace. Social media were rarely used, with little intention of using them more, and were, we suspect, underutilised.

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