Trade unions are organisations that represent the interests of workers or employees who work in the same or similar industries or jobs. For example, shop assistants are all eligible to be members of the same union.
Your trade union can help you with various employment-related questions and issues including:
Membership fees to belong to a trade union are generally based on how many hours you work in a week or how much you earn. For more information you can contact your trade union. If you need to find out the right union for your job, contact the Australian Unions Support Centre on 1300 486 466 (Monday – Friday 9am-7pm AEST).
For more information, you can visit the Australian Council of Trade Union’s website.
‘Freedom of association’ means the right of any worker to choose whether or not to join a trade union. Your boss cannot discriminate against you or treat you badly for being a trade union member. It is also against the law for your employer to fire you for belonging to a trade union.
Your employer cannot stop you from joining a trade union. Remember, you can join a union if you are a full-time, part-time or casual employee.
For more information about full-time, part-time and casual employment, check out our info page here.
For more information about discrimination in the workplace, check out our info page here.
‘Right of entry’ is the right of a union official to come to your workplace. A union official (permit holder) can only enter your workplace to:
There are rules about what a union official can and can’t do while in the workplace. Depending on whether the employees are covered by federal or State laws, the union official may have to tell your employer that they intend to enter your workplace before they come or otherwise get a permit from the relevant industrial body.
You can read more about right of entry here.
There are many trade unions in Australia which cover just about every type of job: from electricians, nurses and actors to shop assistants, labourers and football players.
To find out which union is the right one for your job, you can contact the Australian Unions Support Centre on 1300 486 466 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 7pm AEST) or check enquire through their website. You can also ring the Trades Hall or Labor Council in your State or Territory:
|State or Territory||Union||Contact number|
|New South Wales||Unions NSW||(02) 9881 5999|
|Victoria||Victorian Trades Hall Council||(03) 9659 3511|
|Australian Capital Territory||Unions ACT||(02) 6225 8116|
|Northern Territory||Unions NT||(08) 8941 0001|
|Queensland||Queensland Unions||(07) 3010 2555|
|South Australia||SA Unions||https://www.saunions.org.au/|
|Tasmania||Unions Tasmania||(03) 6216 7600|
|Western Australia||Unions WA||(08) 6313 6000|
Employees can test their knowledge about pay in the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Workplace Basics Quiz, available here.
For information and advice about the Fair Work System including your rights, entitlements and obligations, visit the Fair Work Ombudsman website, their help page or call the Fair Work Info line on 13 13 94.
If you have a question about work, you can contact Youth Law Australia here.
YLA would like to express thanks to Hall & Wilcox and the Fair Work Ombudsman for assisting us with the preparation of this material.
This page was last updated in March 2022
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