Collective bargaining for all

Our largest network, PSA Youth, is currently working to make it easy for our younger members to understand and get involved in bargaining.

vectorstock 3391905Working Life spoke to national co-convenor Caleb Gordon to find out more.

Joining together with our colleagues to negotiate our pay and other terms of employment is one of the key advantages to being a union member. Collective bargaining is at the core of what we do as a union, but it can seem complicated and hard to get involved in.

“The idea for a bargaining working group came from the PSA Youth Leaders Hui last year,” says Caleb, “one of the attendees ran a workshop to share their experiences of being on the bargaining team, to talk about how it went and to demystify the process so others could be encouraged to step up.”

Caleb says that bargaining was an issue that came up again during the Youth Leadership Training courses (run in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin) earlier this year, and from that a small group of people got together to do some work on the issue.

“We always find that people want to know how our union operates, and one of the things that stands out is collective bargaining. People aren’t confident in how it works, so when the opportunity comes up to be directly involved in bargaining, a number of our younger members don’t step up because they don’t feel they have the skills.”

After a couple of phone/video conferences, the working group has split into two, each focussing on a different part of the issue.

The first group is creating a how-to guide for bargaining – including what’s involved, how to write a claim, ways to get onto your bargaining team, the process around gathering issues from members across workplace, and basic info about workplace democracy. Caleb says he wants to make sure young members know that they are the union, and to encourage there to be a youth voice in the bargaining team and the workplace.

“The second group is looking at model clauses,” Caleb says, “to offer clauses across the PSA that speak to young people’s experiences in the workforce.” These model clauses will cover a wide range of issues that affect young people disproportionately, from flexible working arrangements to cater for childcare and part-time study, to ensuring that people in casual and fixed-term work have the ability to be part of the collective.

Caleb notes that group is also “thinking about internships. Lots of young people are increasingly having to come into the workforce through unpaid work, so we need to address that.”

Ensuring release time for union members to be involved in network activities (such as these working groups) during work time, and professional development and career pathways for young workers have also been raised as something the group will consider.

“We have a solid group of people involved. It’s still quite a new group, but it looks like it’ll be productive and I really feel like it’s an opportunity for people to step up, leading from wherever they are rather than expecting the elected convenors to do it, which is always nice to see.”