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Why Join a union?

It's on the record - great trade union achievements. We've come a long way since the 1850s!

Amongst its achievements, the union movement numbers:
The first political party of its kind in the world and, the first chance working class people had for representation in Parliament

Annual leave
Was not achieved until 1941, when after a long campaign, the union movement gained one weeks leave

Annual leave loading
A common benefit in most European countries, was achieved in the 1970s

Sick leave
Started to appear in awards in the 1920s. Up until then, if you were sick, you went to work, or you went without pay and even faced dismissal

Long service leave
Was won in Victoria in 1953

Maternity leave
A 1979 ACTU campaign, followed by a test case in the Arbitration Commission saw unpaid maternity leave, and the job security that goes with it become reality. It is interesting to note that Australia was one of the last industrial nations, East or West, to have maternity leave. We are still one of the few nations without paid maternity leave

Equal pay for women
Until 1949 women's wages were only 54% of the male rates. They were then upgraded to 75%. In 1972, after a long campaign, Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value was finally achieved. Employers opposed women receiving the same pay as men, and many still do. The sad reality is that pay for women is still lower than that for men

Workers compensation
First came in WA in 1902. In 1985, after many years of campaigning, a new scheme was launched in Victoria which had 3 distinct arms:

(i) Injury prevention - many employers more responsible for the welfare of their employees
(ii) Compensation
(iii) Rehabilitation - helping injured workers to recover, and rejoin the workforce if they can

As you can see, many significant improvements to working conditions have taken place this century. They have not come about by accident. They have been achieved only after long campaigns, and sometimes bitter struggles. On most occasions, employers and governments opposed the reforms. Without unions, workers would still be expected to work 6 days a week, 52 weeks of the year. If they were sick, they would have to go to work or lose pay. If injured at work, their only chance to recover lost wages would be to sue the employer at common law. Women would still be paid less than men for performing exactly the same work.

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