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Representing an ageing workforce: Challenges and opportunities for trade unions

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Ageing workplaces present major challenges to the trade union movement in terms of organising, representation and bargaining. Trade unions’ approach to work and retirement has rested on four pillars: that it represents release from financial dependency on work; is a reward for a lifetime of work; frees up jobs for younger workers; and prevents employers from exploiting older people as sources of cheap labour (Duncan et al., 2000). These principles remain as valid now as when the Old Age Pension was introduced over a century ago.

However, the nature of work in later life has changed and many people either want or are being pushed to work longer. Based on interviews with officials, activists and ordinary union members in eight unions, as well as previous CROW research, this report discusses the main challenges facing unions.

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