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How uwu members stood together and won in 2023

2023 was BIG! UWU members demonstrated time and again how powerful we are when we stand together. Whether we were bargaining in our workplaces, campaigning for workplace and industry change or fighting for political reform, we stood united and won! 

There were so many wins we can’t list them all, so here are just some of the highlights. Check out our Facebook page to find even more.  

Members taking action at work

In June farm workers at Hussey, who provide baby salads to major retailers, went on strike for a fair pay increase. This was the first time in decades that farm workers have taken strike action in Australia. Despite threats and intimidation from management, members stood strong and won. 

Led by mostly casual workers from the Malaysian, Indonesian, Rohingyan, Cambodian and Hazara communities, Hussey workers have shown that when we unite and strike for what is fair, we can win no matter what the odds. 

 

Hussey workers won: 

  • Same job, same pay protections for labour hire workers
  • Guaranteed consultation on any new labour hire providers prior to their engagement
  • 6.5% wage increase now for all workers, including workers on rates already higher than the Award, and salaried workers
  • The Fair Work Wage increase plus 1% for each following year of the Agreement for all workers
  • Sunday at 200% for all workers, including casual workers (a huge win in the farm sector)
  • Weekly overtime pay for casuals (not averaged over 8 weeks)
  • Union rights and protections 

Also in June, members at Australian Pharmaceutical Industries Limited (API), owned by Wesfarmers, stood strong for 4 weeks, ultimately securing:

  • 7% pay increase for first year, 4% for 2nd, then 3.5%, and 3.5% 
  • Uncapped redundancies and payout of sick leave for all Dandenong DC workers made redundant 
  • $800 COVID Recognition payment 
  • Permanent jobs for casuals who went out on strike 
  • Protections for injured workers 
  • Improved union rights 

Union Delegate Tracey said that what won the fight was solidarity: 

I just want to say a big thank you to all my union brothers and sisters that sat on the picket line. The strike fund. Everybody that came out, thank you – right down to the little children and the bubbas, and right up to the politicians. 

I had women say to me, ‘I can’t believe I did this. I’ve ticked this off my bucket list. I didn’t even have it on my bucket list, but I’ve ticked it off. I’m glad I did it.’

Check out this video to hear the story of the Wesfarmers Strike and how solidarity won the fight against a multi-billion-dollar company.

Inghams poultry members in WA and SA also went on strike for a fair pay increase in 2023. Despite some revolting behaviour from management, like leaving bins of rotting chicken near striking workers, UWU members remained united and won after 5 days on the line.  

In an inspirational show of solidarity, workers at the South Australian factory refused to sign on to the improved deal until their fellow workers in Western Australia were offered the same conditions. 

Other members who took action in their workplace or industry and won include…

  • 1300 members from 12 dairy processing sites striking for, and winning, cost-of-living increases  
  • NT correctional officers who fought to have four-year pay freeze overturned 
  • Young members at Sea Life Aquarium, Melbourne 
  • Prysmian cable manufacturers struck to secure union jobs and wages for green jobs at new sites 
  • Cleaners who work for IKON at Melbourne Airport 
  • Workers in the Barossa Valley, SA who make Penfolds, Wolf Blass, and Grange wines walked off the job for a fair pay deal and decent conditions for labour hire workers 
  • Queensland Teacher Aides and School Cleaners who made massive new agreements containing historical wins such as implementation of the standard job model for Teacher Aides and full-time employment for School Cleaners. 

members making political change

The United Workers Union is a proudly political union. We know that decisions made by politicians affect our everyday lives as working people, and therefore we must participate in our political system to ensure the decisions politicians make will improve our lives, not make them harder.

In 2023 UWU members campaigned hard and won major policy changes.

Educators made history: Multi-employer bargaining is underway

This year Big Steps members won the first-ever right to bargain under the new Multi-employer bargaining laws. Bargaining commenced in October and with the escalating workforce crisis, educators’  need for relief has become more dire than ever. 

That’s why in 2023 educators unified, taking action to Set the Standard for ECEC. Through taking ongoing action, United Workers Union members have fought to make their voices heard – lobbying MPs, garnering family support, holding employers to account, and building union power by joining their union.

 
The fight continues in 2024!

Biggest Award wage increase in a generation

Union members won a $2500 per year pay boost for close to three million workers on modern awards and an even larger increase to the national minimum wage. With the price of essentials continuing to rise sharply, this is an important win in our battle to ensure workers can keep our heads above water. 

In June, the Fair Work Commission awarded an increase of 5.75% workers for modern awards. For the average award worker the increase will represent about an extra $50 per in your weekly wages. The increase came after thousands of United Workers Union members spoke out and took action to fight for better pay via our Low Pay No Way campaign.  

In its decision, the Fair Work Commission agreed with UWU members that a major increase was necessary to help workers keep up with the rising cost of living. The 2023-24 increase is 1.35% higher the previous year’s increase of 4.6% and is the largest increase ever awarded

Aged care workers won a 15% pay increase

Direct care workers winning a 15% pay correction earlier this year following our rallies at the Fair Work Commission in Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, and Perth was a highlight of the year! 
 
This wage increase was the direct result of aged care union members standing united, speaking out, fighting for recognition, and taking collective action in workplaces, the community, and online.
 
Then in September, we delivered over 1,000 submissions to Fair Work stating loud and clear: SUPPORT WORKERS IN AGED CARE DESERVE A WAGE INCREASE TOO!
 
We won’t stop fighting until our aged care workers in cleaning, laundry, hospitality, and gardening/maintenance are fairly paid for their important roles.

Wage theft will (finally) be a crime... and more

In December the senate passed part one of the Closing Loopholes Bill which will help ease the burden on workers in Australia.

The new suite of workplace laws include:

  • New rights for labour hire workers (same job, same pay)
  • Criminalising and increasing fines for wage theft (including superannuation theft)
  • Strong new rights for workplace delegates
  • Stronger workplace safety laws, including industrial manslaughter and better rights for injured workers
  • Protections for domestic violence survivors
  • Redundancy rights for those working in small businesses
Make no mistake, if union members hadn’t put piled on the pressure and spoken out about our experiences, these changes would not have passed. Big employer groups mounted a multi-million dollar scare campaign against the bill, but our voices drowned them out. 
 
This win is a cause for celebration – but the job is not yet done. UWU will keep up the pressure and continue to fight for more rights in the new year.

A huge congratulations to all members who stood together and took action to fight for fair wages and conditions in 2023!

tl;dr? Watch this video on our Instagram page for rundown of some of our biggest wins in 2023.

Being an uwu member paid off in 2023

Having expert advice on-tap is a key benefit of UWU membership. Every day we support members to fight to get stolen wages back, dispute unfair dismissals and generally, demand fairness and respect from employers. 

2023 was no exception with over $10 million recovered in compensation, entitlement recovery and penalties for UWU members. 

We provided legal support to individual UWU members or groups of UWU members in over 1600 cases last year ranging from the recovery and enforcement of wage theft and entitlements, protecting jobs, job security and professional accreditation, bargaining disputation, protecting members from discrimination, harassment and bullying and their right to be active in their Union, and countless other types of work.  

We provided support for UWU members to make 380 new and improved union agreements estimated to cover about 21,000 members. That’s more than 1 for every day of the year! 

We also assisted in 125 bargaining disputes, including 52 protected action ballot applications, 11 majority support determinations and 43 bargaining disputes in the Fair Work Commission. 

In addition to making new agreements, we were successful in terminating some really bad enterprise agreements, including expired agreements covering workers at Etihad Stadium. These old agreements often included penalty rates and overtime below the Award, worse conditions for casual workers and terrible minimum shift lengths. 

We’ve also been integral in the development of the three tranches of IR reform under this Government, including in relation to multi-employer bargaining, delegates rights recognition and same job same pay (scroll down for more info). 

If you need help or advice with an issue at work, contact your local UWU office. Though please note that there will be reduced staffing levels and no in-office assistance until 8 January. If you contact us during this period, please understand we will prioritise urgent matters.  

Member workshops you might have missed in 2023

In 2023 we launched our new member workshop series to help members learn more about some of the key issues we face at work. 

We’ve held two so far, about your leave entitlements and how to stay safe in the hot weather at work. Thousands of members registered for, attended and watched the recordings of these workshops.  

If you’d like to catch up and watch the recordings of workshops you missed, you can still register then watch the recordings here.

While you’re there, sign up for the workplace consultation workshop in February! 

In early 2024, we’ll officially announce the upcoming workshops. As a sneak preview, we’re planning on running sessions about making the most of your member benefits and recognising and preventing sexual harassment at work.  

We’ve had great comments from members about the workshops we’ve already done. They said, “The session was awesome. Presenters were knowledgeable,” and, “Keep up the good work, the more information out there, the better for all.” 

And we’re taking your feedback and suggestions for improvement on board too!

We look forward to seeing you at one of the 2024 member workshops! Keep an eye on your email inbox for details.

Closing Loopholes changes – when do they begin?

We’ve won some important new workplaces rights with the Closing the Loopholes Bill (part one). But, they didn’t all come into effect when the bill was passed. Some parts require a bit more work before being implemented. 

Wondering when we can expect our new rights to kick in? We’ve got you covered! 

First, to recap, the Closing Loopholes (part one) Bill includes: 

  • Labour Hire provisions – Same Job, Same Pay 
  • Wage theft laws 
  • Delegates rights 
  • Industrial manslaughter 
  • PTSD provisions for first responders 
  • Family and Domestic Violence provisions 
  • And more 

Here’s our rough guide, but keep in mind there’s a bunch of legal complexity that goes along with some of these changes. If you’re interested in the nitty gritty details, you can read the bill here or hit us up for more details. 

Already in effect: 

PTSD provisions for first responders: 

This new law means that if someone who has worked as a first responder, like an ambulance officer, develops Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), it will be treated as a workplace injury and the worker will be entitled to compensation. 

Family and Domestic Violence provisions 

Employers must not discriminate against workers based on their race, gender, caring responsibilities etc. Now workers are also protected from adverse action from employers if they are experiencing Family and Domestic Violence.  

Delegates’ rights 

A delegate, defined as someone who is elected or appointed under a unions’ rules will be able to: 

  • Represent members in disputes 
  • Have reasonable communication with union members and potential members about their workplace rights 
  • Have reasonable access to their workplace and facilities, and paid time off for training (this doesn’t apply to delegates in small businesses) 

These rights are in the Fair Work Act now, they will also be included Awards and agreements from 1 July 2024.  

Coming into effect from 1 July 2024: 

Industrial manslaughter 

If a worker dies because of a workplace accident or injury due to an employers’ negligence or recklessness, the employer could face criminal industrial manslaughter charges. And so they should! 

Coming into effect from 1 November 2024

Labour Hire provisions – Same Job, Same Pay (SJSP) 

The new laws to ensure labour hire workers get paid the same as those employed directly are probably the most complicated part of the Closing Loophole (part one) Bill.  

It means that where there is an existing union agreement, labour hire workers will receive the same rate of pay, seems only fair right?! 

Unions will be able to apply for SJSP Orders from November, to apply to incoming labour hire providers, as contractors change. 

If you work at a site that will be affected, your organiser will discuss these changes with you in more detail. 

Coming into effect from 1 January 2025 

Wage theft laws 

Again, there’s a bunch of complicated legal jargon with this one, but basically, if your boss intentionally steals your wages and refuses to hand over your hard-earned cash, they could be in deep trouble including massive fines and up to 10 years in prison! 

Keep a close eye on your super contributions, because that’s included too! 

Soon Parliament will be debating part two of the Closing Loopholes Bill which is likely to include new rights for casual workers, right of entry for wage theft, and rights for gig workers. We’ll keep you posted about how you can get involved! 

Stay safe at work this Summer

No matter what type of work you do, extreme heat poses a significant risk to your workplace health and safety.  

There are a variety of ways we’re impacted by extreme heat. Like greater risk of heat-related hazards, illness, accidents and injury, poor air quality and smoke hazards during bushfires, and increased stress with the potential to impact our mental health.  

While we should all take reasonable care to ensure we’re safe at work, our employers must take their responsibilities for our safety seriously too. They should do everything they can to eliminate any risks. This includes climate risks like extreme heat, heat illness and the impacts of bushfires.  

As union members, we know the best way to hold our employers to account is by organising our workmates around health and safety issues. It’s crucial that we look out for each other and look out for signs of heat illness. 

We’ve created a poster and checklist to help UWU members recognise the signs of heat illness, be confident in your rights and check where employers could be doing more to mitigate risks associated with heat.  

Remember: We all have the right to cease work if there is an imminent risk to our health and safety.  

Download our Heat at Work Checklist & Heat Stress Poster here to stick up at work and discuss with your workmates. 

Are you across ALL of your member benefits?

We all know the main benefit of being an UWU member is the power we have as workers standing together. Who wouldn’t want tens of thousands of comrades standing with you in solidarity!? 

But, there are some other bonuses you can access as part of your UWU membership. It’s worth knowing what they are and how to access them! Here are some of the membership benefits you might have forgotten about, or maybe didn’t even know they existed! 

Free will kit 

UWU Members have access to free preparation of basic Wills and Enduring Powers of Attorney through Hall Payne Lawyers. This service is normally priced from $330. Check out Memberlink for details about how to access this benefit.

Union training and events 

When’s the last time you had a look at our jam-packed training and event calendar? If it’s been a while, check it out!  

You can sign up to learn more about organising your workmates and building power at work as a delegate, workplace health and safety, and if you’re one of our amazing union women, register now to join us one of the best days of the year – International Women’s Day.

Legal advice 

UWU members can, of course, get advice about issues at work through our union. But did you know you can also access discounted legal assistance for non-workplace matters including a free annual consultation for legal advice? 

If you’d like to make the most of this offer, contact your UWU office for a referral to a local legal firm. 

Visa and Migration Advice

Need help navigating Australia’s complicated visa and migration system? If you’re a member in NSW or the ACT, or you’re a farms worker, we can help! Contact your local UWU office for more info. 

Union Shopper 

If you haven’t signed up yet, it really is worth it. Here’s what one member has to say about it. 

I just wanted to let everyone know what amazing discounts we can get through Union Shopper. My car insurance renewal was $2034. But with Budget Direct, through Union Shopper I got a 15% discount. New figure $1153. Winner winner chicken dinner! My union fees just paid for themselves, and I still get to claim them back at tax time! 

Another member said, 

I just saved $200 though United Workers Union Shopper. Love it! 

So, if you haven’t checked it out yet, have a look here and see how you can save money with your union membership.  

These are just some of the benefits you might not know about. Check out Memberlink – our members-only online portal – to find out what other offers you can access and how.