Women's local level trade union participation.
This thesis explores the participation of women in trade union activity at local level.
The central question it addresses is why do women participate in trade unions at this
level? It identifies the factors that shape and influence women's participation and,
in particular, the role of gender. In addition the thesis critically exatnines the
concept of women's interests. The methodological approach is that of a case study
of women activists in the South Wales and Western division of the Union of Shop,
Distributive and Allied Workers (USDA W), and a principal case study of women
activists in the South and West area of the Banking, Insurance and Finance Union
In recent years there has been a growing body of research considering the
role of women in trade unions. The main focus of these studies has been the barriers
to women's participation. Where women's participation has been investigated the
majority of studies have been concerned with women full time officers and 'senior'
trade union leaders. Within trade union renewal debates women have been
highlighted as one of the groups to target in recruitment campaigns. As such, it is
appropriate to consider women's trade union participation at local level. The
general literature suggests that people join and participate for traditional collective
reasons. This proposition is critically examined.
The findings present a model of trade union activity that differs significantly
from typologies created to examine 'senior' women leaders. Equally, studies of
women at local level which attach one ideological position to women's attitudes
and behaviour are argued to fail to capture the diversity of views evident at local
level. As such, the typology developed from this study places the WOlnen activists
in four groups; the individualist, the collectivist, the carer and the equal rights
representative. These groups reflect the context in which the women are situated
and the varied interpretations of their activism. The findings suggest the problems
of addressing equal opportunities through the union structures and raise, in
particular, the difficulties of developing 'separatist' policies for women. Barriers to
women's participation in trade unions remain significant for local level activism.
The thesis suggests that trade union renewal strategies need to recognise the
richness and diversity of attitudes and interests that women bring to the trade union