Recently there have been many reasons to join your union.
The acquittal of a Prison Officer accused of murder is good news for not only the member, but anyone charged with protecting the community.
The case confirmed that the law not only authorised the accused, known as Officer A, to discharge his firearm at an escaping inmate, but required it, placing this member in an unenvious position to balance the safety of the community against the safety of an escaping inmate.
It is also a sobering reminder of the importance of joining your union. Justice does not come cheap, particularly on a serious charge of murder, where the accused is up against the well-organised might of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP).
Few of us have the means to hire top barristers who charge four-figure sums daily to engage in the elaborate theatre that plays out every day in our court system.
However, Officer A had a trump card: he was a member of the PSA CPSU NSW. He also had the backing of the Prison Officers Vocational Branch Legal Fund. He had access to top legal minds without having to sell his home or go into crippling debt to do so.
The announcement that the State Government is walking away from the idea of prisons for profit means our members in Parklea Gaol can one day look forward to better wages, better staffing numbers and a safer working environment when their workplace comes under state control.
Likewise, the maintenance of public housing has returned to state control.
Again, these wins are the result of the PSA CPSU NSW’s highly organised campaigning and high-level talks with government.
Our members in the ODPP have for years been talking to their employer about crippling levels of overwork. It took their union, the PSA CPSU NSW, to amplify these voices as one and get concrete action to improve their working lives.
These are just some of the wins we have had in the past few weeks. Sometimes they affect just one member, other times they improve the working lives of tens of thousands of people. Sometimes our wins set precedents in workplaces across the entire country, in essence helping millions of Australian employees.
To win, we need a comprehensive army of members. The more people we have, standing together and contributing to the common good, the stronger we are and the more wins we will have.
Your union membership fees are an investment in your future and that of your colleagues. They improve the workplace for those who will follow in your footsteps.
When Officer A did what he was told to do to stop a dangerous inmate escaping into the community, his own life changed. Without his union membership, he’d have had to sell his family’s home to afford the type of legal representation required to fight such a case. Or he could have foregone the expert legal assistance and taken an increased risk of transforming from Prison Officer to inmate.
Union protection and benefits such as our Legal Funds may be things you never require. Or they could be the things that keep you out of prison or bankruptcy.
Talk to your colleagues. Let them know every pay increase is won by the union. Let them know they can receive an impressive array of membership benefits including shopping discounts. And let them know they never know when they will need the protection of a union.