Role of unions

Learn about the role of unions in the workplace and about bargaining with unions.

Unions in the workplace

Unions are bodies that represent the interests of workers in particular industries or occupations. Unions play an important role in the workplace.

They can advise on and resolve workplace issues by being a voice for employees and act as a bargaining representative during bargaining negotiations.

Other responsibilities of unions include ensuring employers are meeting their minimum obligations and looking into suspected breaches of:

  • workplace laws
  • discrimination laws
  • workplace safety laws.

Workplace delegates

Employees can also be elected or appointed as delegates to be a representative for their union’s members in the workplace. Visit Workplace delegates for more information.

Bargaining with unions

Bargaining is a process where employers and employees negotiate the terms and conditions of an enterprise agreement.

Employers and employees can be represented by a bargaining representative during this process. Normally the bargaining representative for employees will be a union.

All bargaining representatives and other parties involved in the process have to bargain in good faith.

The Fair Work Commission (the Commission) provides information on:

The Commission is the national workplace relations tribunal and registered organisations regulator.

Corrupting benefits

Bargaining representatives and other parties have to follow rules about disclosing benefits that they or a person related to them might get from a proposed enterprise agreement that they're a bargaining representative for.

This means that if unions and employers are bargaining for an enterprise agreement, and either of them (or a related person) will or could get a financial benefit from something in the proposed agreement, they have to make sure that everyone else in the bargaining process knows about it. This includes employees who will be covered by the agreement.

If either the union or employer has to disclose a benefit, they have to create a 'disclosure document'. Find out more at Disclosure rules during enterprise bargaining.

A union who creates a disclosure document has to give it to the employer, who then has to provide it to the employees.

An employer who creates a disclosure document has to give it to their employees.

The Commission gives information and guidance on corrupting benefits and disclosure rules. Learn more at Corrupting benefits and disclosure rules.

Tools and resources

Related information

Have a workplace problem?

Problems can happen in any workplace. If you have a workplace problem, we have tools and information to help you resolve it.

Check out our Fixing a workplace problem section for practical information about:

  • working out if there is a problem
  • speaking with your employer or employee about fixing the problem
  • getting help from us if you can't fix the problem.

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