The typical new unionist: not a hard hat in sight, and most are women

Female workers are more unionised than male workers in Australia, after a decades-long trend that has dramatically changed the union agenda.


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Photo: Tamara Dean

The typical unionist no longer wears a hard hat but is more likely to be a teacher, a nurse or childcare worker, workplace experts say.

Almost 19 per cent of female workers are members of a union, compared with 17.5 per cent of male workers. In 1990, 35 per cent of women and 45 per cent of men and were in unions, Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show.

As a result of the change, greater job flexibility, family-friendly hours, equal pay, paid parental leave and domestic violence leave dominate the union agenda. Ged Kearney, a former nurse and now president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, said unions were more focused on policies that directly affect women.

Ms Kearney said unions would fight to protect the minimum wage, penalty rates, the award system and collective bargaining, which mostly affect women workers, who comprise a big proportion of workers in low-paid jobs.

''The impact of getting rid of all those basic protections that we have in the Fair Work Act will severely impact on women, and this has made our resolve even greater now to pursue these advancements for working women,'' she said.

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Workplace Editor
Sydney Morning Herald

 

 

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