Joining a Union

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Can a union refuse to let me join?

Union membership is voluntary under the ERA 2000. This means that unions can use their discretion as to whether they accept your membership. However, normally if you fall within a union's coverage rules and you are wanting to join for genuine reasons, then the union will accept you as a member.

Can I be sacked for joining the union?

No. You are free to join a union and your boss cannot put any pressure on you to not join. Your right to join (and not be victimised for this) is a fundamental right enshrined in the Employment Relations Act.

Can I join any union?

Yes, but the more important question is 'what is the appropriate union for me?'. The answer to this question will depend on what industry you work in and if there is more than one union organising in your industry. The best place to start is to contact the Council of Trade Unions (CTU).

Do I need to join if I get on well with my boss?

Joining a union is voluntary and is about advancing all members' interests in the workplace, and is not about your relationship with a particular individual or the boss. There are no guarantees that the same boss will be there tomorrow or that his or her attitude will remain the same. There are also thousands of workplaces around the country where there are union members who get on well with their boss.

Can I join if I'm covered by an individual agreement?

Yes. But you'll need to talk this through with the union you are thinking of joining as there can be issues that need to be explained. For example, if you are joining because you want to be covered by a collective agreement that operates in the workplace - and that agreement has a work coverage clause that doesn't cover your work - then you won't be covered by the Collective. The union party to the agreement would need to bargain with your employer for an extension to the coverage clause (in order to get you covered) and this may be difficult. On the other hand, often people on individual agreements join up as a first step towards negotiating a collective agreement.

Can I join if no-one else in my workplace is a union member?

Yes. However, talk with the union you are interested in joining first about the situation at your workplace.

Can I join the union if I don't have a job?

This is possible but will depend on the rules of each individual union. You will need to contact the union you are interested in and enquire about their specific rules relating to this matter.

What happens if I get a hard time or picked on for joining a union?

Contact your union organiser (the paid official who visits your site) or union office immediately. It's unlawful to pick on or victimise a worker for joining a union, and unions treat these situations very seriously.

Why should I join when the boss gives us the union-negotiated pay deal anyway?

This is the real issue for union members on the job. They have joined together, paid their subs and negotiated a good collective agreement - only to see their employer offer essentially the same deal (as an individual agreement) to non-union staff members. You have to ask yourself is that fair? Another way to look at it is ask yourself what the pay and conditions would be like if there was no (union) collective bargaining on your job. It's likely the pay would not be as good. Also you've got to remember that unions play a bigger role than just at the workplace level. For example many unions invest heavily in skill and industry training issues. The only reason they can do this is because they are supported by members fees.

Will the union fix my problem straight away if I join up?

In many cases, problems cannot be fixed straight away. However the union would always aim to provide you with the resources, tools and support to enable you, along with you workmates, to address and fix workplace problems.