Rebecca Bednarek is Research Fellow in Aston Business School, Aston University, Stephen Blumenfeld is Senior Lecturer in School of Management, Victoria University of Wellington and Sally Riad is Senior Lecturer in School of Management, Victoria University of Wellington.
The Political Economy of Work and Employment
Union-division: on the paradoxes of purpose and membership scope in union mergers
Article first published online: 22 NOV 2012
© 2012 The Author(s). Industrial Relations Journal © 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Industrial Relations Journal
Volume 43, Issue 6, pages 548–571, November 2012
How to Cite
Bednarek, R., Blumenfeld, S. and Riad, S. (2012), Union-division: on the paradoxes of purpose and membership scope in union mergers. Industrial Relations Journal, 43: 548–571. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2338.2012.00696.x
- Issue published online: 22 NOV 2012
- Article first published online: 22 NOV 2012
Union mergers raise central questions about a union's raison d'être and the range of constituents it can serve effectively. Whereas the challenges posed by union purpose and scope of membership have long engaged researchers, few studies have fleshed out the contradictory issues that engage committed members and leaders during a merger. We argue that in mergers, fundamental themes in unionism intersect in paradoxical ways. We analyse a merger of tertiary education unions in New Zealand and situate its debates within a changing context for industrial relations. The case provides insight into the tensions inherent in union mergers by addressing the drivers for integration and differentiation as well as the role of leaders in shaping these. The findings elucidate paradoxical dynamics inherent in mergers: the paradox of purpose confronts the tension between industrial and craft unionism and the paradox of membership scope considers critical mass and communities of interest. The conclusion reflects on identity, leadership and context during mergers and poses contributions to research and practice.