How to make change in your workplace

It happens to everyone: you’re bound to face problems at work at one point or another. This guide is here to help you figure out how to deal with them. 

Sometimes problems can be individual. But more often than not, you’ll have a problem that will affect more people than just yourself. 

We’ve outlined below the steps you can take: these actions are known as ‘organising’ a workplace. When you’re in a union, there will always be someone there to support you. 

Although this guide will talk about organising when there’s a problem at work, it’s important to know that organising doesn’t just happen in workplaces where things have gone wrong. Organising can also be a way of improving an already great workplace. 

When you’re in a union, you will be in the strongest position possible to make change in your workplace.

Step 1: Join your union

Just do it. No matter where you work or what job you do, it’ll always be the best decision you can make to drive change at work.  

The pathway to making change at work begins with building respect and dignity with your coworkers. Whether it is improving wages or workplace safety, or stepping up to help your fellow coworkers with information and assistance, union members take real action to make work better for all.

To find out whether you’re the only one with a problem at work, talk to your coworkers.

Who knows, they might have been waiting for someone else, like you, to ask about it. Workers coming together to talk about their workplace is actually an incredibly powerful way to drive change.

If you find you’re the only one with the problem, you should still contact your union organiser or union contact centre (go to step 4). They can also help guide you through individual issues.

But if you find your coworkers have similar experiences and they’re also unhappy, then move to step 3.

The purpose of meeting as a group is to confirm that the issue is common at your workplace. 

 You can use this meeting to talk about how you will deal with the problem. If you and your workmates are stuck for ideas, you can always reach out to your union organiser if you need a hand. They’re an employee of your union who can help figure out what to do next. 

If you and/or your coworkers aren’t comfortable meeting at your physical workplace, there’s a few different ways you can hold the meeting:

  • After work hours 
  • On a walk during lunch 
  • At a local café 
  • At a nearby park  
  • Or simply wherever people will feel most comfortable.  

By coming together and deciding what to do next, you and your coworkers are creating your collective power as workers.

Another advantage of being in a union is having access to expertise and workplace that puts your interests front and centre without relying on your employer or human resources (whose job is to protect your employer).

When you’re in a union, you can elect delegates and Health and Safety Representatives to represent your interests. Your coworkers in these roles are there to provide you with support at work.

Of course, each workplace is different. Follow this checklist to make sure you get the best support possible. 

  • Find out if you have a union delegate at work. Delegates know a lot about workers’ rights and can represent your views to management. 
  • If you’re not sure if there’s a delegate at your workplace and you don’t know how to find out, contact your union. If you’re not yet a member or you’re not sure which union is yours, contact the Australian Unions Support Centre.  
  • If you discover that you don’t have a delegate, follow the steps outlined in this fact sheet on delegates to get a delegate at work.

You can follow these same tips for Health and Safety Representatives (HSRs). If your workplace issue has anything to do with health and safety, then your HSR is the best person to provide support.

Of course, you and your coworkers can seek support from your delegates and HSRs at the same time. 

After you’ve decided what to do at your union meeting and with support from your delegates and HSRs, you’re now ready to enact your plan.

If the plan works – celebrate all your hard work with your coworkers!

If the plan doesn’t work, have another union meeting with your coworkers to work out what didn’t work and what you could try next.

Hot tip: your delegate and/or organiser are very useful to troubleshoot these hiccups so you can try again next time

When workers come together and act in union to solve workplace issues, you never have to go alone.

Of course, these steps won’t always happen smoothly. There are so many factors that might influence how organising plays out. For example, the type of workplace, how many employees there are, the industry that you work in.

This is meant to be a basic guide to get you started. The best action to take – if you haven’t already – is to join your union. They will help guide you and provide advice tailored to your situation.

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