Recruiting your colleagues

As a union, we are only as strong as our membership base.

Inviting colleagues to join the AEU is the most powerful way to recruit new members – and to build our collective power. When we ask potential members why they haven't joined, the most say they were never asked!

But how to have this conversation?

1. Share your own reasons

Talk about your own values and reasons for joining. Mention any significant things AEU membership has given you – whether access to professional networks, high-quality training, expert industrial advice or the member magazine.

Share the ways being in the AEU has made a real, tangible difference in your own working life.

2. Make it about them

Find out what's important to your colleague about their own life and work.

Perhaps they are likely to go on family leave at some point, or hoping to move from contract to ongoing work. Or they are worried about getting support for students with special needs.

Most of the things that educators care about – or the career goals they have – will directly relate to the mission and achievements of the AEU.

3. Give them the basics

If you work in education, it pays to be a member of the union who advances and protects your professional and industrial interests.

We have a strong track record of securing improved pay and conditions for educators.

Members have access to free, comprehensive legal support and representation.

If you have any problems at work, we’ll go in to bat for you with your management or employer.

4. Give them the bigger picture

Many people aren't sure what unions are all about – let alone the particular characteristics of the AEU. You may like to give them a potted history of some of the AEU’s finest moments.

Or perhaps let them know that the union has won:

  • the right for women to achieve equal pay
  • 14 weeks of paid maternity leave
  • the introduction of permanent status for part-time workers.

Not to mention our frequent wins for individual members or stand-alone issues –  for example, the reason school teachers no longer have to pay for work laptops out of their own salary is thanks to a legal case won by the AEU.

We run powerful campaigns for our members' rights and for public education.

5. Show them how to join

If your colleague just hasn’t got around to joining, show them the sign-up page or hand them a membership form.

Regardless of whether they sign up on the spot, you’ve reminded them that our wages and conditions haven’t been magically gifted to us – they’ve been fought for by generations of union members. And our best chance of maintaining and improving those wages and conditions is through strong membership.

Five responses to common responses

1. “I don’t feel exploited or underpaid. I’m quite happy in my job.”

That's great! The union played a big part in achieving your current salary and level of job satisfaction.

The more members we have, the more we can do for you.

Almost everybody at some time in their working life will need support or advice from their union. Joining the AEU is about supporting you throughout your career.

2. “I can’t afford to join. The fees are too high.”

AEU membership rates are not a flat rate. They are set according to your income and time fraction, to make it as fair and accessible as possible. If you’re a graduate, or part-time or casual employee, your union fees will reflect that.

Union membership is a an important form of security for educators – you never know when you’ll need our help.

Plus, your union fees are 100% tax deductable.

3. “I’ve seen the news reports. Aren’t unions all corrupt?”

All unions, including the AEU, are governed by: a) organisational rules approved by Fair Work Australia; and b) the Registered Organisations Act 2009.

Our leadership team, together with branch officers, Executive, Branch Council and Sector Councils, are democratically elected every three years. The Victorian Branch Conference is held annually and all financial members are eligible to seek election to attend as a delegate.

All our elections have to be approved by Fair Work Australia and are then conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission. The AEU finances are overseen by the Finance Committee, Executive and Branch Council. Under our rules, all expenditure must be approved by the Branch Secretary who is ultimately responsible for the financial viability of the organisation.

On top of that, the AEU is independently audited every year and we have to report to Fair Work Australia on all activities throughout the year as well.

Like the vast majority of unions, the AEU has never been implicated in or accused of corruption or fraudulent activity of any kind.

4. “I get along well with the principal and I don’t want to rock the boat.”

There’s a misconception that being in a union is about fighting 'the bosses'. In fact, we understand that working with leadership or management is how we can successfully implement improvements in the workplace.

The AEU has established positive consultation mechanisms to ensure members have a representative voice in the workplace and input into working conditions.

Being in the union is about knowing your rights and being proactive about your entitlements, as well as campaigning for better resources for students, so you can provide the best education possible. 

5. “I don’t want to let down my students if we're called to go on strike.”

Going on strike is only ever a last resort. It’s not something the AEU takes lightly.

There are strict industrial laws regarding industrial action, and any decision to go on strike is about weighing up what's at stake for staff and their students in the long-run versus the short-term consequences of a day off work or potential workplace closure.

The AEU is the key voice advocating for public education and improved resources for students. Without the activist work of members, there would be no additional schools funding, no 15 hours of preschool, and likely no TAFE sector left at all!

Sometimes we must also resort to stopwork action to ensure we achieve the best possible outcome for members. 

Recruitment is everyone’s responsibility. Do yourself and your students a favour by having a conversation with colleagues about the benefit of joining the AEU.

Join the AEU