Compulsory Unionism: A Strength or Weakness? The New Zealand System Compared with Union Security Agreements in Great Britain and in the United States


  • Alexander Szakats



In the following article Doctor Szakats evaluates the workers' position with regard to the necessity of membership in union as an indispensable prerequisite for obtaining and retaining work. In particular, he analyzes current employer-union practices and legislation in New Zealand, Great Britain and the United States. The author points out that in New Zealand the relevant statutes apply only to registered workers' associations. However, registered union has the advantages of: monopoly position; blanket clauses; and unqualified preference clauses. The author concludes that the so-called abolition of compulsory unionism in New Zealand does not change the position of workers seeking employment since by virtue of the unqualified preference clauses in nearly all awards and industrial agreements, compulsory unionism has de facto remained in force. In Great Britain, as in New Zealand, relevant statutes apply only to registered associations. Although it has been recognized in Great Britain since 1871 that trade unions are voluntary associations, the theory does not always conform with the practice. As result, certain arrangements can inhibit worker's choice of specified trade union and closed shop agreements may lawfully counteract this right of not joining, thereby introducing de facto compulsory unionism. By way of contrast to Great Britain and New Zealand, relevant legislation in the United States extends to and binds all trade unions. The author concludes that although com pulsory unionism imposed by the state generally weakens the labour movement, compulsory unionism imposed by employer-union agreement strengthens the movement.