Being part of a union sounds all well and good in theory, but just what can my union do for me?
That’s a pretty good question.
The truth is, all the working rights that we have were campaigned for and won by unions. The reason we still have them is because unions continue to defend them, and try to make them even better.
Take wage rises.
Unions have a massive influence on whether or not you are paid decent wages.
Don’t believe me? Well don’t take my word for it. The Australian Bureau of Statistics has shown that workers who are members of unions earn (in general) $275 more a week than non-union members.
This is because when workers come together to negotiate with employers they have more influence than if they negotiated alone – really, this is just bargaining 101.
Unions continue to negotiate large numbers of enterprise bargaining agreements – meaning that rather than you having to negotiate individually with your employer, you have the strength and expertise of the union behind you.
And every year it is the union movement that argues for an increase in the minimum wage.
But that’s not all!
Unions have played the major role in making sure our workplaces are as safe as possible for working people.
It was unions who put pressure on government’s as far back as the 1880s and 1890s to get the first laws to protect health at work passed.
In the 1950s and the 1960s it was unions who campaigned to make health a major industrial issue. This involved campaigns around industrial noise, injuries at work, and of course, the danger of asbestos.
Through the 1980s union pressure led to the first major state and federal workplace health and safety reforms in decades.
More recently, unions campaigned for the series of reforms to workplace health and safety, including the introduction of industrial manslaughter laws.
In 2020, it is unions who have been at the forefront of the campaign for paid pandemic leave during the COVID-19 crisis.
Better wages, more safety at work: these have been won by the union movement.