If you're not already a member of a union, a great place to start getting organised is by joining up.
For some workers, this can be a very big step. Their company may never have been unionised, their employer may be 'anti-union', or they're just not sure about how to go about it. Whatever the situation, a union will listen to and assist workers (confidentially if necessary), to join up.
Some people think that joining a union is about getting more power to use as a club against the boss. It's not. It's about getting real fairness in the workplace so that workers can bargain on an equal footing - in employment agreement negotiations and other key workplace issues - to get decent outcomes in pay, conditions and their work environment.
The Employment Relations Act (ERA 2000) recognises the role of unions in representing workers to achieve greater organisation and protection in the workplace with more say over what happens in their working lives. The Act enables unions to have access to and represent their members, and to recruit other workers who want to join. The new law promotes collective bargaining, with only unions being allowed to negotiate collective agreements with employers. Under the new law employers, unions and workers have to act with each other in good faith.
Joining a union provides you with a network of people and resources who are dedicated to ensuring that all union members get the best possible employment agreement and workplace they can. A collective agreement provides key entitlements like pay rates and allowances, overtime rates, extra holidays, redundancy, sick and domestic leave, and training leave. Unionised workplaces also provide for better protection against unfair treatment or agreement disputes.
It's against the law (the ERA 2000) for your employer to put pressure on you to not join a union, or to pull out of a union. Under the law, it's your choice and your employer must respect that choice. The right to union membership is international. It's a fundamental human right and is enshrined in Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was signed by New Zealand over 50 years ago.
An employer who hassles staff about the union is in danger of being sued for a personal grievance. The ERA 2000 has a very good mediation system to fast-track solutions to these sorts of problems. But one of the best protections against any form of victimisation or discrimination is for you and your workmates to stick together in the union. An employer with a grudge against unions may pick on a single person who is in the union, but is far less likely to hassle a whole group of workers if they all belong.
It has been the experience of unions for many years that in most workplaces there is a good working relationship between employers and union members. Employers realise there are a lot of benefits to be gained from working with a unionised workforce, rather than against it.