Glossary - ACTU Australian Unions


If you need any further information about any of these issues contact the Australian Unions Hotline on 1300 486 466 for free, confidential, advice and assistance.

Here is a glossary to some common phrases in use in workplaces:

Australian Workplace Agreement

Individual contracts brought in under the Howard Government’s Work Choices legislation.


A state or federal industrial instrument that sets down wages and conditions for a particular industry or group of employees. It covers matters like wages, overtime, classification structures, leave entitlements (including annual, sick, parental, maternity & family leave, termination & redundancy protection, public holidays and other minimum conditions of employment. Employers must abide by the conditions of an award.

Casual Worker

A person employed to do short term, temporary, irregular or seasonal work. Casual employees are not usually entitled to benefits associated with continuous employment - although they are often entitled to a 'loading' on top of the rate for permanent workers. This is designed to compensate for missing out on sick leave, holiday pay and other benefits.

Collective Agreement

An agreement made between a group of employees and an employer or a group of employers/their union and an employer.

Delegate/shop steward/union representative

An elected union representative based at the workplace.

Fair Work Commission

An independent body set up by the Federal government to oversee the industrial relations system. It has a range of functions relating to: dispute resolution, dismissal, minimum wages and conditions of employment, enterprise bargaining, industrial action and other workplace matters.

Freedom of Association

Under the Fair Work Act every Australian worker has the right to chose to join or not join a union.

Minimum wage

There is a national system of minimum wages which underpins rates of pay for all workers. Unions campaign and make claims every year for a decent increase to minimum wages.

National Employment Standards

The Rudd Government introduced the 10 National Employment Standards in June 2008. The NES work in conjunction with 'modern' awards to ensure that all Australian workers have a guaranteed set of minimum employment conditions which can’t be undercut.


The amount of prior warning you need to give your employer if you want to leave your job, or that they need to give you if they want to terminate your employment.


Termination of employment by the employer either because they do not need that job performed anymore or they need fewer people to do that work. If you are made redundant - or think you may be in the near future- you should contact your union for advice on your rights.

Work Choices

Work Choices is the name for the Howard Government's sweeping IR reforms. The laws came into effect in March 2006 and got rid of important conditions and entitlements for Australian workers including: penalty rates, rest breaks and access to unfair dismissal.

Do you like this page?