FAQ - Belonging to a union
- Do I still maintain my union membership if I'm on long term leave (like ACC or parental leave)?
- Can I still be a member if I get promoted?
- Can Supervisors be union members?
- Can the boss be a union member?
- How do I become a delegate?
- Isn't an industry agreement a second-rate deal to my enterprise collective?
- What are my rights at work if I am faced with being sacked?
- What does it cost to use the Mediation Service?
- What happens if there is a strike and I don't go on strike?
- What if my workplace hasn't got a delegate?
- What's the difference between an individual and collective agreement?
- Why do employers lock-out their staff?
- Why do workers go on strike?
- Why should my company be tied into another company by a multi-employer collective agreement?
Yes. Your union membership is suspended while on long term leave. If you require assistance while on leave, the union will provide it. You are still a union member.
Yes. The ERA 2000 states that anyone can belong to a union. It is your choice. If you think there are issues with your continued membership (like any conflicts of interest) then speak with your union.
While anyone has the right to be a union member - it is often up to the union concerned whether or not to accept your membership. Often union membership is linked to the collective bargaining structures within a company. For most private sector unions the question is whether the supervisor has the right to "hire and fire". Some organisations have employees in roles called Team Leaders as well as Supervisors who are coordinators and facilitators with the team, but do not have the role of hiring and firing. There is usually no issue with such employees being members of a union on site. However this will also come back to the history and culture in that organisation. Some unions may take the approach that supervisors with the management ability to hire and fire would not be signed up.
This would be up to the authorisation of the union, and may be inappropriate. A union could not provide coverage in a Collective Agreement if the boss was a member of the union. Although this is technically possible, questions would be raised as to why the boss wanted to be in the union, and therefore may be opposing rationale.
Talk about this with your workmates and arrange for a meeting to hold an election. Keep your union informed about what is happening.
In most cases, industry agreements set the benchmark for wages and conditions - which enterprise agreements follow.
You have the legal right to be treated fairly by your employer. This means there should be a fair warning system in place - that includes your right to representation.
This service is provided at no cost by the government. However, getting effective access to the Mediation Service is best done through expert assistance - like your union.
If a strike happens and you are not on strike, you will be expected to go to work as usual unless your employer tells you that there is no work for you. If there is no work for you to do, your employer can suspend you from work. This means that you will not be paid until there is work for you to do. Your employer will tell you when you can start work again. If you are not on strike, your employer cannot tell you to do the work of the striking workers. However, your employer can ask for volunteers to do this work. Your employer cannot hire new workers or get contractors to do your work unless there are health and safety reasons.
When you and your workmates join the union, a meeting will normally be organised by a paid union official. During this meeting your fellow union members may be asked to democratically elect one or more delegates to provide suitable representation over all departments and shifts where the union has members. Delegates are the 'engine-room' of most unions acting as key workplace organisers and representatives.
An individual agreement is between you and your employer. A collective agreement is between your union and your employer. You get covered by the collective agreement by virtue of being a union member.
Employers are entitled to withdraw their obligation to provide work (on a temporary basis) during negotiations for a collective agreement. This may occur to pre-empt industrial action by the workforce or it can happen during a strike. In many ways the employers right to lock-out is the corollary of the workers' right to strike.
Going on strike is generally a last resort action. Sometimes a situation such as trying to get better improvements in pay and conditions where the employer is unwilling to move on anything, will generate a desire to take strike action by the workers. Workers can also take strike action over Health and Safety matters. For example, if a worker considers a work requirement is dangerous or hazardous to their health, they can refuse to do it. This could be classed as a strike if carried out collectively.
When unions have multi-employer agreements these are usually negotiated in an industry context. For example, the EPMU-negotiated Plastics Industry Collective Agreement. It makes sense to have agreements that cover companies across an industry to achieve good industry pay rates and conditions - and address issues of concern to both workers and employers like skill development and training.