A union is an organisation that looks after the rights of employees in particular industries or sectors. If you are a member, a union can advise you about your legal entitlements at work. In most circumstances, you are charged a fee to be a member. The level of union fees depends on your gross annual income and the union you join.
Under the Fair Work Act 2009, it is an offence to treat a worker differently on the basis of whether they belong to a union or not. This is called freedom of association.
Benefits of joining a union
There are many benefits to joining a union. Recent analysis of figures issued by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) show that union members, on average, receive higher pay and are more likely to receive benefits than their non-union counterparts. For more information phone ACTU Work Link 1300 362 223.
You may need to arrange to join the union yourself. You can arrange for your fees to be deducted from your bank account. The union can send letters to your home address. You are not required to tell your employer if you join a union.
Ring the ACTU Worklink or the Victorian Trades Hall Council (03) 9662 3511 for more information. They can connect you to the correct union for your industry.
As well as providing legal advice, some unions provide specialist advice services to apprentices and trainees that are members. For instance, if you are experiencing problems with your relationships, finances, or drug and alcohol abuse – counsellors can recommend ways to help you deal with the problem.