Joining and belonging to a union

5 Oct

Workers in some workplaces feel pressured by management to leave unions or not join them in the first place. The reason that some employers or managers try to influence people to leave the union is basically because they want as much profit from the work of the employees as possible, whereas the union wants the employees to get the best pay and conditions possible for their work. While many companies might wish there was no union on site, it is illegal for employers or their representatives  to try to influence you against belonging to the union.

The law which fully protects an employee’s right to belong to a union is contained in Part 3 of the Employment Relations Act which is titled “Freedom of association”. Part 3 establishes that an employee has a legal entitlement to belong to a union and can do so according to that employee’s own choice.

Section 8 of the Act establishes that an agreement, contract, or arrangement cannot require you to cease to be a union member, or not become a member of a particular union. For example, it is illegal for an employer to prevent an employee from working in a job on the basis that the employee is a member of a union. Also it is illegal to not promote an employee to a new position because the employee is a union member. Similarly an employer cannot express a preference as to whether an employee is a union member or not.

Section 11 is about undue influence. It prescribes that employers cannot exert undue influence on an employee to cease being a member of a union or to not join a union. It prescribes that an employer cannot encourage an employee to join a union of the employer’s preference.  Section 11 prescribes that an employer may not exert undue influence upon  an individual who is authorised to act on your behalf to cease doing so. Further, section 11 prescribes that an employer or its representative  cannot influence an employee to leave a job or a position on account of the fact that the employee is a member of a union. Every person who breaches these section 11 provisions can be liable for a penalty imposed by the Employment Relations Authority.

Under the Employment Relations Act the courts  take power imbalances between employees and employers into consideration when deciding whether an employer has unduly influenced employees to not belong to a union. If you are encouraged by an employer or its representative (i.e. a manager) to cease union membership you should make a record of the conversation and contact your delegate or organiser


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