What is a Union?
“With all their faults, trade unions have done more for humanity than any other organisation that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character, than any other association.” Clarence Darrow
A modern definition of what a trade union is:
“An organisation of mostly employees or workers, the main activities of which include the negotiation of rates of pay and conditions of work for its members.”
In Australia, a union is sometimes referred to as a trade union or a labour union.
A union is an organisation of workers or employees who have joined together to achieve common goals. These goals can include seeking higher pay and better working conditions, fighting for job security and protecting the integrity of a trade.
A union, through its officials and delegates, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members (the rank and file) and negotiates (or engages in collective bargaining) to reach enterprise agreements with employers.
This bargaining may include the negotiation of wages, work practices, dispute procedures, recruitment, disciplinary and termination protocols, benefits, workplace safety and company policies. Enterprise agreements negotiated by the union are binding on the employer and all employees, including non-members.
There are currently almost one hundred unions in Australia. Everyone who works in Austalia is entitled to join a union. Which union you should join depends on what sort of work you do and where your workplace is located.