Together is an organisation of workers who work collectively to change things we couldn’tchange alone. We strive for better working conditions, fair entitlements for employees, and stronger services in our community.
We work for a better life by creating more ways for workers and their families to enjoy the things that matter. Things like fair wages, fair treatment at work, time off protection from being sacked are all things that workers have won by acting collectively.
Collective Action and collective agreements
The principle of collective action is that everyone has a much better chance of reaching a better chance if they ask for improvements as a single united group.
In recent successful campaigns, like the Health Professionals campaign, we won better wages and a better career path because the campaign got the involvement and support of more members. Bringing on board more members is how workers win.
Wage Balance Rally, Brisbane in 2008
The things that union members have won, like fair wages and conditions, are usually enshrined in formal agreements. These can have a variety of names but are generally known as collective agreements or EBAs (enterprise bargaining agreements). These agreements have a fixed term but they remain in place after the nominal expiry date until management and workers negotiate a new agreement. Union members are legally protected if they take industrial action while asking their employer for a new agreement.
Collective agreements can cover many different matters. Typically, they mention things like:
• pay rates;
• employment conditions e.g. hours of work, meal breaks, overtime
• consultative mechanisms for managers and workers; and
• procedures to allow workers and management to resolve or avoid
Collective agreements are not the only ways in which unions protect workers’ rights. Other important protections are contained in legislation, directives, or some other formal documents. Together Industrial Officers provide information to members on their rights and what they can do to ensure their entitlements are protected.
HP workers campaigning in 2007
The most basic level of protection for workers is contained within Awards, which are registered in front of a tribunal.
The tribunal can be either a federal tribunal (Fair Work Australia) or a state tribunal (the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission), depending on
what industry a member is in. Different legislation covers different industries because of the constitutional separation of powers between state and federal governments.
Every employee in Australia is covered by an award, either state or federal. Awards are referred to as a 'safety net' for workers. An agreement is tested against an award to ensure that overall workers are not disadvantaged in comparison to their award.
Working arrangements and conditions can of course be set by other things besides collective agreements and awards. In many public sector workplaces for example, working conditions are set out in formal directives. Union members work together to make sure that workers are treated fairly through these mechanisms as well.