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Why you should join your union

Why every apprentice should join their union

You're a new apprentice and you're excited and proud to start work... but did you know apprentices are more likely to have our wages stolen? Experience sexual harassment? Bullying? Suffer an injury at work? 

Let's face it - most of us are just so chuffed to be starting our apprenticeships that we're willing to disregard red flags in a new workplace. We tend to give our boss the benefit of the doubt.  

But blindly trusting your boss isn't a good habit to pick up in a new job. As a worker, you have a responsibility to look out not just for yourself but for your workmates and other apprentices - and the way you support them is by joining your union and getting active. 

Being Union

A union is the collective of workers in an industry; it's how the employees discuss issues with the boss and make changes in their workplace and wider industry.  

Even if your boss is a pleasure to deal with, your relationship with them is not one of equals - they have power over you because they manage your work. But when you're union, you and your workmates can have a real say over business decisions that affect you - like shift schedules, safety issues, and other working conditions. The basic principle is "touch one, touch all" - you can't punish one of us for speaking up, because we're all speaking up together. 

For example, if the boss tells the new boilermaking apprentice to work in a confined space without supervision, the apprentice might be worried, but they'll probably also be afraid of looking "weak" or "lazy" at their first day on the job.  

But as a union member, you'll be introduced to your union delegate and Health and Safety Rep on the job - they're workers just like you, who your co-workers have elected to represent them. You can talk to them and get advice about what's normal and what's safe. 

Without that peer-to-peer advice, you could be putting yourself in real danger. 

Union support

Any time your boss calls you in for a meeting you are entitled to union representation - so your delegate, HSR, or a union organiser can come to the meeting with you to take notes and provide advice. That can be invaluable when a boss tries to discipline you for any mistakes, real or imagined.  

In addition to your workplace delegate and Health and Safety Rep (HSR), you'll have access to the resources of your union office - this is basically the combined wisdom and experience of generations of workers in your industry, be it manufacturing workers, labourers, hairdressers or florists. There's rarely a workplace problem your union hasn't seen before. 

In the case of serious workplace issues, you can get "industrial" or legal advice from your union, and even representation in court.  

Plus, while you're hard at work, your union officials are advocating for higher minimum wages, better safety standards, and social policies that benefit the working class. Not bad eh? 

To find out more info and join your relevant union, head to

If you are unsure of any of the above, contact The Young Workers Centre or find support here.