Growing our union

Having a strong and active union presence in the workplace provides added security when protecting workplace rights, conditions and holding management accountable.  Collective power can make positive changes in your workplace. 

Below are some helpful tips to get you started.

Asking colleagues to join can seem daunting to some, but it can be as simple as having a chat about the union over a cup of coffee. The following is a basic guide for union members on how they can ask their colleagues to join the CPSU. 

Approaching someone about joining

Everyone is different so tailor your approach. Most people prefer talking to someone who listens, shows interests and discusses their ideas. Tips on approaching someone:

  • Choose the right time and place
  • Talk to them as an individual
  • Be approachable/relatable, and
  • Listen and don’t argue.

Having the join conversation

The best way to do this is to keep it really simple. Approach a non-member, introduce yourself, and ask them to join. You might want to say something like: 

“Hi, my name is Sally and I am a union member. I think that being part of the union is really important for DHS staff. Can I talk to you about joining?”  

Or, if it’s someone you do know: 

“Hi, X, you know I am a union member. I think that being part of the union is really important for DHS staff. Can I talk to you about joining?” 

Then follow on by telling them about what union members are doing in DHS to protect workplace rights, conditions and jobs. Explain how them joining will help and ask them to join. 

What topics can you talk to them about?

Think about the reasons why you joined. Why? because your story will be relatable to the person you are asking to join. There is a range of topics that you can discuss about the benefits of being a union member and what union members do in the workplace that benefit everyone:

  • Talk about your own personal experience being a union member
  • Members campaigning to lift the cap on APS jobs
  • Members campaigning against the privatisation and outsourcing of APS work
  • Members protecting workplace rights and conditions (eg: access to overtime if you took personal leave, bargaining etc)
  • Members volunteering as a delegate to represent members
  • Access to other representation: Member Service Centre, local CPSU organisers
  • Other member benefits: journey cover insurance, discounted shopping etc

What information should you have with you to help?

It is always good to have some information about the union with you eg: latest bulletin or information sheet about the benefits.  You can obtain good information sheets to print off here.

Why do people join the union?

People join the union for a variety of reasons:

  • They were asked
  • Values – they believe in unions
  • Self-interest – representation, or
  • Member benefits

CPSU research found most people join unions because they believe our values, though some join because of the value (benefits, tax deduction).  

Why do people not join the union?

People may not have joined the union for a variety of reasons:

  • They haven’t been asked
  • They are casual/labour hire and didn’t think they could join
  • They don’t know what the union does
  • They are concerned the boss will find out
  • They have concerns about costs, or
  • They don’t agree with unions.  

How to respond to objections to joining 

Not everyone will join straight away, the person’s reasons will be valid to them so we need to respect what they say. This doesn’t mean we don’t challenge their reasons.  

A way we do this is to explore their concern, relate it to their personal experience and see if there is something we can explain to help move them towards joining.  

  • I can’t afford it - Yes it does cost to join but if we don’t fix x issue it will cost us more and union membership comes with financial benefits which can help ease the cost.
  • I am just a casual – We recognise how tenuous your job can be. We provide a tiered fee structure to make joining affordable and give casuals more chance at a permanent job.  
  • I get the benefits anyway – Where you happy with the delay in bargaining? No. Only 50% of staff were members, despite this we did move the government on its pay and bargaining position. Do you think this would have been resolved quicker if we had 90% membership? 
  • I am opposed to unions – That is a very strong view. Is there any particular reasons why you don’t agree with the work myself and others do in the workplace? (not everyone will join so it’s good to defuse any antiunion anger)  
  • I can look after myself – That’s great. Confident people like you can help us resolve big issues like bargaining which an individual can’t fix.

Important: If you don’t succeed the first time, leave the door open. Always end the conversation positively.