What Are Unions All About?

Question:
What are unions for and what do they do?
Answer:
Unions are about working people coming together for a common purpose — to make workplaces fairer and our lives better.
They make sure workers are respected, get decent pay and conditions, and that our workplaces are healthy and safe.

Unions are there when you need them.

They provide expert advice on wages, conditions and rights; assistance for workplace problems; and help if you get hurt at work, including referral to lawyers if you need one.

Through collective bargaining and union campaigns, Australian workers have achieved a great deal:

  • Award wages & conditions
  • Annual leave
  • Sick leave
  • Overtime pay & penalty rates
  • Long service leave
  • Protection from unfair dismissal
  • Workers’ compensation
  • Equal pay for women
  • Parental leave and paid maternity leave
  • Superannuation
  • Medicare

All these are in place because working Australians through their unions have won them and keep on defending and improving them.

They are achievements that benefit working people not just in the workplace, but in their day-to-day family lives. They are important examples of how unions are working for a better life for all workers and are all strong reasons for joining a union.

Question:
What are the benefits of joining a union?
Answer:
To protect your rights at work, the best thing you can do is join a union.
A Unionised workplace can negotiate an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement with their employer resulting in better wages and conditions such as:

  • Union members earn on average almost $100 a week more than non-union employees (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2009)
  • Union members get better holiday pay such as a 17.5 leave loading
  • Union members are better trained, have better working conditions and have more job security
  • Having union members in the workplace improves Health and Safety
  • Union members also get specialist advice and support whenever they need it from the Union
  • Members receive professional help with:
    • Wages and entitlements
    • Unfair treatment and harassment at work
    • Work-related injuries or illnesses
    • Collective bargaining for better pay and conditions
    • Superannuation and retirement

Question:
What have unions achieved in the past and how can they help me today?
Answer:
Many of the things we take for granted today have been won for us by the efforts of union members in the past.

Working Australians didn’t get these rights because employers gave them to us or because governments just decided to make laws to help working people.

These rights exist because workers acting together in unions have campaigned and struggled hard for them: Decent wages, annual leave, sick leave, overtime rates, penalty rates, workers’ compensation, equal pay, maternity leave, superannuation and health & safety laws are all in place because of unions.

In recent years there are many important examples of how unions have defended and extended the rights of workers.

Unions fought to get rid of anti-worker laws and bring back

  • Protection from being dismissed unfairly
  • Modern awards covering minimum pay and conditions, including penalty rates, overtime pay, public holidays, annual leave, sick leave and allowances
  • A legal right to join a union. This cannot be eroded by threats of dismissal, pressure, or victimization.

Unions have also won a new national scheme of paid parental leave that gives 18 weeks of financial support when they have a baby.

Question:
Can one person joining a union make a difference?
Answer:
The more workers who join the union, the stronger position the union will be in. We all want to protect what we’ve got and improve on it, but the fewer people there are in the union, the less chance we have of doing that.
If people took the attitude that they can benefit from the work the union does without joining, we would soon have no union members and no one would have the benefits workers enjoy.

To make sure we have a voice at work, enjoy good wages and conditions and live in a fairer society – then it’s up to all of us to get involved.

Question:
What can unions do for me that I can’t do for myself?
Answer:
It makes sense that workers are better off when we all join together than when we act alone. Employers look after themselves first and most have got lawyers and specialists to help them.
Unions look out for the interests of workers.

Industrial relations are a complicated area, you are a skilled worker and good at your job, but would you feel confident negotiating a pay rise or calculating all of your entitlements; knowing the dangers of chemicals and other OHS hazards at work or finding your way around the workers’ compensation system if you are injured or made ill at work?

Question:
Are most industrial disputes settled without strikes?
Answer:
Most collective agreements are successfully negotiated without the need for industrial action.
However, sometimes members of the union do decide to go on strike and if they do, it’s a collective decision that is not taken lightly.

Question:
Are there benefits to joining a union, even if I get on well with my employer?
Answer:
Even if you are getting on well with your boss this week, you never know when you may need a union.
If you are not a union member then they won’t help.
You insure your house, you insure your car, why not your employment?

Question:
What are the other financial benefits of joining a union?
Answer:
Union membership fees are tax deductible.

There are additional benefits that the union gets for workers, like low cost banking and loans and savings through discount shopping.
Free legal advice to Union members, free standard wills and No win - No charge legal help

Question:
Which union should I join?
Answer:
The Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union (AMIEU).
Go to http://vic.amieu.net/
Call the Union office (03) 9662 3766,
Fax the Union on (03) 9662 9549
Call into the office at 62 Lygon St Carlton South Victoria 3053.