International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations

Volume 26 (2010)

Volume 26 (2010) / Issue 4

Lindy Heinecken, 'Military Unionism and the Management of Employee Relations within the Armed Forces: A Comparative Perspective' (2010) 26 International Journal of Comparative Labour Law and Industrial Relations, Issue 4, pp. 401–419


Many find the prospect of military unions totally inimical to the nature and functioning of the armed forces. Yet, a number of countries allow some form of military unionism, while others vehemently resist any form of independent union based on the premise that this undermines discipline, cohesion, and loyalty. This article examines how four different countries – the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, and Germany – have dealt with the issue of military unionism. The British Armed Forces, like many other English-speaking countries, have tended to approach employee relations from a typically unitarist position, which translates into union suppression or avoidance. The Canadian Armed Forces opted to circumvent the need for a military union by adopting a more human relations or neo-unitarist approach to employee relations. In South Africa, the military has been obliged by legal decree to accept a more pluralist dispensation, which has led to an overtly confrontational employment relationship. In Germany, where a union-like professional association exists, the approach has been more cooperative, even corporatist, typifying the European experience and philosophy towards unions, even in the military. In analysing the management of employee relations from these different typologies, the implications of union avoidance and acceptance within the armed forces are evaluated.

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ISSN: 0952-617X
ID: IJCL2010025