Print Smaller Fonts Larger Fonts

Union membership

What is the role of unions

Unions are organisations set up by employees to help them at work. The primary purpose of a union is to maintain and advance the wage rates and working conditions of members, and to defend and promote a fair and safe working environment. Unions also inform and educate members and the community about the issues workers confront.

Unions are important because it is unlikely workers would win these kind of battles alone. There are more than 50 unions in Australia representing all different industries.

How can unions help you?

Unions can help you in the following ways:

Industrial representation

If you're having a problem at work that isn't resolved, a union will represent you in the Australian Industrial Relations Tribunal (AIRC) or in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC), where people from outside the workplace listen to both sides of the story and then make a decision.

Take action

If you are unhappy with your working conditions, unions can help you organise a legal strike.

Occupational health & safety

Unions provide advice and support to elected Health and Safety Representatives to make sure your workplace is safe. Unions also provide expert guidance and legal assistance on all workers' compensation matters under state and federal legislation if you are injured at work.


Unions will help you ensure your rights at work are protected, including on issues such as harassment, discrimination, equal opportunity and equal pay.

Proper pay and entitlements

Unions will help you to get paid the right salary as well as ensuring you get your overtime pay, back pay, holiday pay etc.

Advice and assistance in workplace bargaining

Unions can work with you and your employer to form an enterprise agreement or contract.

Talk to your employer or Unions NSW

Unions can help by dealing directly with your employer. [ACTU website] [Unions NSW website]


Copyright © 2011 Money Stuff

An initiative from NSW Fair Trading


Last Updated: 26 November 2012

Page URL:

This information must not be relied upon as legal advice. For more information about this topic, refer to the appropriate legislation.

© State of New South Wales through NSW Fair Trading
You may freely copy, distribute, display or download this information with some important restrictions. See NSW Fair Trading's copyright policy at or email