In 1976, 2.5 million Australians are members of a union. In 2016, 1.5 million Australians are union members, according to the Parliament of Australia. Young people, casual and/or part-time workers are the main groups of people least likely to join the union. With young people being one of the biggest groups of people not signing up to a union, is there any particular reason why young people not joining the movement that has brought annual leave (achieved in 1936), paid maternity leave (2011), sick leave (appearing in the 1920s) and meal/rest breaks (1973), according to the Australian Unions.
These massive changes that we young people take for granted such as the eight-hour working day or the weekend or even having a superannuation fund, existed as long as we have been alive. That’s if we are still ticking under 25 option that is. While the union movement has been alive and kicking way before we have been thought of, there are many things that still make work suck and the unions exist to make work suck less.
More and more workers are casualised. That means it’s often insecure in the number of hours you work a week or it’s a contract basis. During the 2019 NSW State Election, the union movement advocated for the right that after an employee works for an organisation as a casual for more than two years, they should be considered permanent. Labor and the Greens are two more notable parties that supported the idea of making employment more permanent.
According to Industry Super Australia, one-third of eligible Australians are getting their super underpaid. This is equivalent to 2.4 million Australians having $3.6 billion stolen from their superannuation fund. A prime example of wage theft and exploitation was 7Eleven. In 2015-16, a Melbourne 7Eleven store was found to pay as little as $3.98/hour. One victim, Pranay Alawala, an international student from Brisbane, was unpaid for one-week training and was threatened by his boss if he spoke out that he would be reported to immigration for working over 20 hours a week, above the legal amount of hours a student visa holder can work in Australia. Alawala is owed over $30,000 of unpaid wages from one store alone.
The Union movement staunchly advocates against wage theft and will help both visa holders and citizens with unpaid wages and understanding the rights you have at work.
Unions are there to protect you and make your life at work suck less. Did you get injured at work? Underpaid? Have been put in dangerous situations at work? Your union is there to listen to you if you have problems.
The union movement has been advocating for equality since its beginning. From equal pay at work, paid parental leave and even some of the more social movements including the Marriage Plebiscite in 2017 and domestic violence.
Have you been unfairly dismissed? Can’t afford a lawyer? If you join a union, part of your union fees, you can actually challenge the unfair dismissal. Also, unions can provide personal injury schemes, 24-hour legal service for non-work matters. When it comes to tax time, your membership fees are tax-deductible.
To join your union, click here.