Trust and unions: some polling

Possum Pollytics reports on the 2010 professional rankings for honesty, conducted by Roy Morgan. The rankings are part of a ten-year series and asks people to rank various professions on their “perceived levels of honesty and ethical standards”.

The list is an interesting one in and of itself, but I’m particularly concerned about the ranking of “union leaders” – which ranks with a mere 15 percent for “high” or “very high” in terms of honesty and ethics.

While this doesn’t differentiate between union leaders and union officials (like organisers or industrial officers), or unions as institutions, the low ranking – below lawyers, politicians and bank managers – should be worrying for any unionist.

Of course, there are some mitigating circumstances. Both Howard and Rudd Governments ran smear campaigns against union leaders – campaigns that were out and out hostile. Targeted at both blue and white collar unions (construction unions and teachers unions for example), it would be odd for union leaders to rank as highly as nurses or the police.

Nevertheless, with a new ACTU President, a Federal election likely to be partly fought on WorkChoices, and an urgent need to increase union membership under the Fair Work Act, these figures must be taken seriously.

4 responses to “Trust and unions: some polling”

  1. @MattCowgill Avatar

    I took some encouragement from the fact that respondents' trust of union officials has risen over the past 10 years.

    1. alexjpwhite Avatar

      This is true, but the increase is very small, and not all that heartening.

  2. Frank Avatar

    Alex, if you scroll down the pollytics post even further you'll see that in 1979-81 the rating you refer to was 8. I don't think any recent events reflect the current ranking. I think you need to look further back than the Howard years (if anything this period softened views about Union Leaders). The common perception throughout the 70s (and 80s to a lesser extent) was that Union Leaders had disproportionate power – especially in relation to industrial action. The survey is simply a hangover from this, and the reason it hasn't gone up substantially? Most workers (even union members to a lesser degree) have no interaction in person or the media with "Union Leaders" (as opposed to Bank Managers for example); so what springs to mind when asked to rank Union Leaders? Norm Gallagher.

    1. alexjpwhite Avatar

      It's true that most people have no interaction with union leaders on a daily, or even yearly basis. However, there's plenty of high ranking professions that are similar, such as engineers (who interacts regularly with engineers except other engineers).

      I think the low percentage ranking is due to union leaders being viewed as defending very sectional interests against wider community interests. This is why highly unionised professions (nurses, teachers, police) rank higher – they are seen to work in the public interest.

      An interesting question for unions' public relations: should unions always put rank and file members front and centre whenever dealing with the media – for example, interviews, door stops, press conferences, etc.

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