NTEU believes that all university staff benefit from the work of the Union, yet only a proportion of those benefiting contribute financially and intellectually to the benefit of all through active union membership. 
If a person seeks to join the Union only when they have a workplace issue for which they need assistance, they are seeking personal benefit from access to the limited resources generated by long-term Union members.  It is analogous to an uninsured driver who has a car accident seeking an insurance company to pay for the repairs. . 

Union membership is more than just an insurance policy.  Through their membership of the Union, members take joint and collective responsibility to pursue improvements in all staff salaries and employment conditions, to ensure that the broad views of the membership and the sector are represented to policy makers and government, that management decisions are held to scrutiny in the workplace, and that the broader aims of the labour movement are pursued. 

In this context, members who join NTEU seeking assistance with a pre-existing issue can have no expectation of industrial assistance.  

The NTEU determines that: 

  • Union members have a right to advice and, where appropriate, assistance with workplace issues as determined by the issues and circumstances involved.  Non-members or members who join with a pre-existing issue cannot expect that assistance will be available.
  • A potential member seeking industrial or other assistance may be provided with initial basic advice sufficient to outline the benefits of joining.  No substantive advice will be provided until the person has joined.
  • Once joined, a new member with a pre-existing issue may be provided with limited advice about the nature and options for dealing with their matter.  This is a right all members should enjoy.  This should include exploration of the significance of the issue, the number of other people who may be affected by it, and the potential for additional membership to be generated by dealing with this issue.  Authority to provide this initial support resides with the relevant Division Secretary.  Division Secretaries to consult with the relevant Branch/Branches to ensure a consistent approach to industrial assistance for new members with a pre-existing workplace issue.
  • A new member with a pre-existing issue will not be provided with representation at meetings with management or at any tribunal such as the Fair Work Commission.  The relevant Division Secretary may authorise a higher level of advice and/or representation at meetings and/or tribunals, where the resolution of the workplace issue has significant precedent value through potential impact on the protection and enforcement of the rights and entitlements of the broader membership.
  • A decision to provide industrial assistance equivalent to that provided to an existing member may be considered provided the new member pays 12 months back dues (or a pro rata payment for service of less than 12 months).  The extent of the support required will remain under review and may be withdrawn at any time at the Division Secretary’s discretion. 
  • Exceptions to the requirement for back pay may be made by the relevant Division Secretary where the payment of back dues would cause significant hardship to the non-member or be unreasonable in the circumstances.