Unions, community, work and family in Australia’s iron ore sector

Unions, community, work and family in Australia’s iron ore sector Journal Article

Labour & Industry: a journal of the social and economic relations of work

  • Author(s): Ellem, Bradon
  • Published: 2015
  • Publisher: Routledge
  • Volume: 25
  • ISBN: 1030-1763

Abstract: Unions, community, work and family influence each other in striking ways in one of Australia's key export sectors, iron ore mining. The nature of these relationships cannot be understood outside of the history and geography that has shaped them, not least the enduring legacy of Australia's founding as a settler society and the uneven nature of the economy today. The Pilbara is the pre-eminent site of the iron ore industry, a site at once remote and integrated, an exemplar of Australia's long-standing dependence on external markets. When export production began 50 years ago, workers, their families and unions developed strong social networks and political agendas in which industrial and social demands overlapped. The Pilbara was a union place. From the 1980s, the conditions which had allowed strong unions and which had underpinned a particular set of family and community relationships around those unions changed. State-sanctioned employer antagonism and the rise of the 'fly-in-fly-out' workforce transformed social relationships. With that set of changes, unionism all but collapsed. Today, increased automation is changing the nature of work, unsettling the gender division of labour and throwing open questions about the geography of mining. There are now 'mining families' and maintenance workers in metropolitan communities and there are workers in urban computer centres controlling operations at the mine sites. Unions are struggling to find a place for themselves not least because of the control that the companies exercise over the very issues examined here - community, work and family.

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Suggested Citation
Ellem, Bradon, 2015, Unions, community, work and family in Australia’s iron ore sector, Volume:25, Journal Article, viewed 24 July 2024, https://www.nintione.com.au/?p=12164.

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