Mixed feelings on non-union members paying for worker wins

HelloCare, 23 January 2023

Results from a HelloCare poll have split the audience over whether non-union members should pay a fee to cover the costs of negotiating higher wages and better conditions – following reports that industry unions want workforce laws changed and non-members to pay a contribution fee.

The poll, held on our social media platforms, showed a 50-50 split between those who thought this proposal was fair and those that didn’t.

Recently, a number of Australian unions called for workplace laws to be augmented to help curb the declining number of union members and to give delegates and organisers greater powers.

Unions also said their members have to do more fighting for decent pay and conditions that benefit non-union workers as well, which has sparked the calls for non-members to make a contribution if they receive benefits from the work of unions.

Some respondents found the proposal fair as many workers benefits from union efforts, but others didn’t agree.

One Facebook user wrote: “‘this is the union trying to wind back the clock when people were forced to belong to the union, this is more removing choice and the right to make informed decisions”.

One of the union proposals would have non-union workers pay a contribution fee to a union for every successful pay and conditions change and for workplace laws to be altered to accommodate this.

The Health Services Union (HSU) has spent $1.2 million pushing for a 25% pay increase for aged care workers and National President, Gerard Hayes, said non-members should stop getting a free ride.

He suggested the equivalent of a one-year membership of $500 be levied on non-union workers to reward unions’ advocacy.

“A lot of effort goes into that,” Mr Hayes said.

“The pay rise helps change their lives, it helps change their communities.

“The last two-and-a-half years of COVID has shown we’re a society that relies on each other and we need to support each other.”

Opposition Workplace Relations spokeswoman, Michaelia Cash, said it was disgraceful to take people’s money for services they didn’t ask for. 

“It is nothing more than the ailing union movement’s way of propping up their declining membership,” she told AAP.

Ms Cash said the Federal Government’s industrial relations reforms, which were introduced in December and expanded multi-employer bargaining rights, opened the door to “more outrageous demands from the unions”.

“Australians have the right not to join a union and they should never be forced to do so,” she said.