What is a union?
There is no easy answer to this question, because the power that comes from properly funded organised labour is so far reaching.
Many people don’t understand exactly what the union movement is.
Some think of it as a type of insurance if something goes wrong. Others think of it as an agency that polices the bosses.
Neither of these views is correct.
The union movement is all about empowering workers to maintain good wages and conditions, in safe and healthy workplaces.
The more members the union has, the more power workers have.
They can use this power in many different ways.
Some of those ways are at the worksite, where the power of workers allows them to stand together in an organised way to negotiate with the boss. The more members the union has, the more threat potential the boss sees and is therefore under pressure to maintain good wages and good safety measures.
Away from the worksite, workers need a voice. The world is dominated by the rich, and workers need power over the people and institutions that can have an effect on the workplace.
These are people like politicians, who we need to lobby so that they will pass better laws for workers, or training providers who we need to ensure that workers get the right training. Our lobbying power can help direct government money towards the right workplaces to help the boss out — which in turn provides them with more money for wages and safety.
Your union representatives also appear annually at the Fair Work Commission to argue for increases in award wages, which in turn affects the wages for agreement-based workers. This is known as the National Minimum Wage Increase which applies from July each year.
Your union fees go towards helping workers organise the power they need, and the representatives they need to lobby for those benefits for workers.
Your fees are a contribution towards maintaining workers living standards, by ensuring that our workers organisation is strong and effective.
On top of that, the union also provides other benefits to its members. These are different in each state of Australia but include such things as ambulance cover, cover against accidents going to or from work that stop you from working, wholesale price tools of trade through our bulk buying power, and more.
Your union representatives will also come and assist you at the workplace if you get into trouble at work or have an industrial or safety issue. They will meet with your boss and use the power of the union to encourage them to resolve your issue as best as possible, rather than leaving you to do it on your own.
What is a union?
A union is the power of working people to stand together and make a difference.
AMIEU Federal Secretary