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Joining a union in the APS?

By 30 November 2012 38

Hi all,

Sometime in the very near future, I will be joining one of the larger Federal Government departments in an EL1 role. I’ve only ever worked in the private sector, so it’s going to be a bit of a culture shock, I’m sure.

A question for those in the know – is joining a union compulsory? Is it advisable? Is it looked upon favourably when being considered for promotion, or looked down upon and a career-staller? My preference is to not join a union if I can avoid it, but I accept that it might be impossible to avoid.

Sorry for the odd questions but I don’t actually know very many public servants.

Ta! Wedge.

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38 Responses to Joining a union in the APS?
#1
mossrocket2:37 pm, 30 Nov 12

It not compulsory, not worth the bother, and not cared about…
Before Rudd came into power there was a bit more pressure to conform (depending upon the Dept), but I’ve managed to steer through my career apolitically – it’s what the APS should be about, and it’s also good to not be a card carrying member when the inevitable culls occur…

#2
Rollersk8r2:45 pm, 30 Nov 12

What they said. Not compulsory and not an issue these days.

#3
f4te2:47 pm, 30 Nov 12

It’s advisable, but not compulsory. Only union people get a say in their work conditions come EA bargaining time. It won’t play any part in your ability for a promotion. It’s also tax deductible!

#4
cmdwedge2:55 pm, 30 Nov 12

Thanks all. Will there likely be a union rep at my desk, hounding me to join? I’m in the IT sector and haven’t had that happen before, I don’t think we even have a union rep on site here. Not a very union-y work sector I guess.

Do people inside the Department know who is and isn’t a member of a union? When applying for a promotion in a year or so, will the panel members know, and is it possible that they will care?

#5
basketofcat2:56 pm, 30 Nov 12

f4te said :

It’s advisable, but not compulsory. Only union people get a say in their work conditions come EA bargaining time!

Yet everyone generally benefits. GG.

#6
Conan of Cooma2:56 pm, 30 Nov 12

It is an odd question, truth be told. I have never heard anything positive or negative related to joining the Union until our last agreement negotiation. I joined at that point in case it came down to workplace action. Basically I wanted the higher moral ground if it came to striking…

Who am I kidding, I just wanted a valid excuse to strike and get paid. Apparently you still get paid if you are in the union. I don’t know how!

That said, you don’t get any extra protection, you do get a lanyard (sometimes) but the biggest benefit I have found is the tax break you get amounting to the full annual membership costs, even if you don’t pay them (snide giggle).

#7
Duffbowl3:14 pm, 30 Nov 12

I used to be a member of the CPSU for awhile when I was a pube, more out of solidarity and upbringing than a requirement of the job. Watching the bulls*** that happened, with the union more interested in boosting numbers than actually helping members, low level corruption of the site reps, and a bit too chummy relationship with management, caused me to resign. Never looked back, and didn’t hurt my career.

#8
geetee3:16 pm, 30 Nov 12

Having worked in the APS for over 30yrs (with a few years of pvt sector in the middle – including work as a recruitment consultant – I can tell you that union membership is rarely considered in selection processes and the panel will not know or probably care if you are or aren’t a contributor.

However, I can tell you that at the lower levels, being a union delegate certainly helped me get promotion from APS1 to EL2 (promotion each year for about 8 years due to the skills and knowledge picked up via my union duties/experiences).

If your department is anything like mine these days, you are unlikely to hear anything about union membership from a delegate until enterprise bargaining time (or industrial action time).

#9
Gungahlin Al3:21 pm, 30 Nov 12

It is a non-issue in the general APS workplace.

That said, all my working life I had a principle of always belonging to the relevant union while working for someone else. At times I have drawn on and appreciated that support.
So when I started working in the APS I of course joined the CPSU.
Then the CPSU affiliated with the Labor Party. And I immediately quit them.
As long as that situation remains, I will not be a member of it, and I encourage others to likewise avoid them. [off soapbox]

#10
watto233:30 pm, 30 Nov 12

Can I suggest if you do join to not join the CPSU, but look at APESMA or ACS instead, which is more approriate to people with IT skills. They offer the same kind of support a union does, without the hounding. Or if the CPSU person hounds you, just say you are an APESMA member :-) I’m still a member basically because my Gold APESMA AMEX is fee free, and a few other discounts, plus tax deductions mean the annual fee works out to be minimal.

#11
cmdwedge3:44 pm, 30 Nov 12

Duffbowl said :

I used to be a member of the CPSU for awhile when I was a pube, more out of solidarity and upbringing than a requirement of the job. Watching the bulls*** that happened, with the union more interested in boosting numbers than actually helping members, low level corruption of the site reps, and a bit too chummy relationship with management, caused me to resign. Never looked back, and didn’t hurt my career.

What do you mean by low-level corruption? That sort of thing really puts me off.

#12
Buckaroo_Banzai4:21 pm, 30 Nov 12

f4te said :

It’s advisable, but not compulsory. Only union people get a say in their work conditions come EA bargaining time. It won’t play any part in your ability for a promotion. It’s also tax deductible!

That’s funny. Myself and quite a few others were representatives, and completely independant of unions, during my department’s most recent enterprise bargaining round. The Fair Work Act now allows non-union reps in on the bargaining.

#13
JessP4:48 pm, 30 Nov 12

No longer relevant and pointless. Save your money.

#14
Duffbowl5:00 pm, 30 Nov 12

cmdwedge said :

What do you mean by low-level corruption? That sort of thing really puts me off.

Nothing that could be proven when push came to shove, but for a few “interstate” work trips with cash in hand expenses, a head could be turned the wrong way.

#15
Pork Hunt5:36 pm, 30 Nov 12

I find it surprising that a leader of lemmings at EL1 level has to ask if it’s compulsory? It’s pretty basic knowledge that it is not compulsury.

#16
Woody Mann-Caruso6:09 pm, 30 Nov 12

No; no; no; no; don’t, then; it isn’t remotely.

(And you’re in the APS now, son. If you count that many questions as ‘a question’ you’re not going to meet those KPIs.)

#17
milkman6:22 pm, 30 Nov 12

Waste of money, and your superiors won’t like it.

#18
m_ratt7:13 pm, 30 Nov 12

f4te said :

Only union people get a say in their work conditions come EA bargaining time.

Bullshit. Anyone can nominate their own bargaining representative, and it does not have to be a union.

#19
m_ratt7:13 pm, 30 Nov 12

Conan of Cooma said :

Who am I kidding, I just wanted a valid excuse to strike and get paid. Apparently you still get paid if you are in the union. I don’t know how!

No, you don’t.

#20
moneypenny26128:02 pm, 30 Nov 12

Have no fear. Union membership is irrelevant to recruitment and promotion decisions.

If a selection panel member asks, just politely refuse to answer – it is just as inappropriate to discriminate based on union membership as for marital status, pregnancy plans, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, etc.

I’ve been a union member my entire APS career – including at Workplace Relations under the Howard Government. I collectively bargained, took industrial action sometimes, and refused to sign the AWAs they offered.

The CPSU is largely useless, however. It’s hard enough to get public servants to take industrial action (a profound sense of professional duty I have found…), but the CPSU has been substantially weakened by affiliating with the ALP.

The affiliation putsch was led by the now Stephen Jones MP (ALP), who was always a c*nt when at the CPSU.

#21
cmdwedge9:18 pm, 30 Nov 12

Pork Hunt said :

I find it surprising that a leader of lemmings at EL1 level has to ask if it’s compulsory? It’s pretty basic knowledge that it is not compulsury.

For some strange reason, I did have ‘(and I imagine that it’s not)’ in my question, but then I deleted it. No idea why. I think that I read somewhere, whilst Googling away, that unionism IS compulsory in the public service of some countries. Got confused.

To all the contributors – thanks! I’ll give joining a miss. It’s interesting, I actually thought that all unions were automatically affiliated with the ALP – I guess not!

#22
miz9:46 pm, 30 Nov 12

Sorry to hear you are going to abstain. Union membership is like insurance – u hope never to need it, but it’s damned worth having. CPSU makes a significant contribution to keeping management’s hands off decent employee conditions during the EA period, and it’s very cheap (direct debit is worked out on salary – I hardly notice its deduction).
Should you experience some kind of workplace issue, CPSU can represent you. When Howard removed workers comp for the journeys to and from work for APS, CPSU put it into place for its members.
Highly recommended.

#23
rosscoact9:52 pm, 30 Nov 12

If you’re a public servant and want worker’s compensation to and from work being a CPSU member is the only way you can get it.

Up to you to decide whether the union fees are worth it

#24
Dazzlar10:19 pm, 30 Nov 12

“Sorry for the odd questions but I don’t actually know very many public servants.”

Boy, you will soon and you will shake your head in wonder and utter things like “Never in the private sector” and “I can’t believe you can get away with that” or “In my old job he would have been sacked weeks/months/years ago”.

Enjoy the ride and try not to wonder at the amount of dollars wasted on crap!!

#25
Mr Waffle12:56 am, 01 Dec 12

Your membership fee is tax deductible, IIRC. So there’s that I suppose!

#26
vulpior6:11 am, 01 Dec 12

watto23 said :

Can I suggest if you do join to not join the CPSU, but look at APESMA or ACS instead, which is more approriate to people with IT skills. They offer the same kind of support a union does, without the hounding. Or if the CPSU person hounds you, just say you are an APESMA member :-) I’m still a member basically because my Gold APESMA AMEX is fee free, and a few other discounts, plus tax deductions mean the annual fee works out to be minimal.

I’m an employee of a small business rather than the APS, but I am a member of APESMA and ACS. ACS doesn’t really provide union-like services; it is a professional association/society. APESMA, however, is a non-ALP affiliated union.

My APESMA fees are much higher than my ACS fees, and I get much less out of the APESMA membership, but they did review my contract when I took this job and they would be there for advice and support if I ever needed it.

I’ve been a union member throughout almost all my working life, in the UK and here, but never a party affiliated one. For me it’s a principle and insurance. For others, doing the exact opposite may be as much a principle and a money saver.

Union and professional association fees are generally tax deductible

#27
milkman8:38 am, 01 Dec 12

Dazzlar said :

“Sorry for the odd questions but I don’t actually know very many public servants.”

Boy, you will soon and you will shake your head in wonder and utter things like “Never in the private sector” and “I can’t believe you can get away with that” or “In my old job he would have been sacked weeks/months/years ago”.

Enjoy the ride and try not to wonder at the amount of dollars wasted on crap!!

+10000000.

#28
staminaman6212:12 pm, 01 Dec 12

rosscoact said :

If you’re a public servant and want worker’s compensation to and from work being a CPSU member is the only way you can get it.

Up to you to decide whether the union fees are worth it

U sure about that? I’d be very surprised.

#29
LSWCHP6:57 pm, 01 Dec 12

rosscoact said :

If you’re a public servant and want worker’s compensation to and from work being a CPSU member is the only way you can get it.

Up to you to decide whether the union fees are worth it

My wife slipped outside her office in the rain on the way home a few years ago and injured herself severely enough that she spent several months in a wheel chair. She wasn’t a union member, so all the medical costs, which were substantial, were paid by us. For that reason, and a number of others, she’s now a member of the CPSU.

#30
schmeah7:03 pm, 01 Dec 12

You’re joining the APS as an EL1 and you are asking whether joining a union is compulsory? Is this the level of comprehension I, and other job seekers are up against in the APS labour market!?

No, union membership in Australia is not compulsory … and the moon really isn’t made of cheese.

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