As I visit schools to see members and listen to the chapter raising matters, most often concerns, it has been a very rewarding experience on some of those visits, to present members with a little memento of gratitude marking their 30 year continuous membership with the IEU.

Whilst it is a refreshing change in the discussion and the mood of the chapter, and such members are surprised and pleased, in some instances it was bittersweet. I recall one situation where the Representative made the presentation, warmly welcomed by the member who then took the Representative and myself aside to say they have a workplace investigation letter, which they need help with. The member said “I’ve never neededthe Union”.

I found the irony incredibly bittersweet but it also answered a question that I often get at meetings, or the comment made during meetings by members or non-members in the vicinity…“Why do I need to stay a member” and “I’ve never needed the Union, what’s the point of paying all that money?”.

The latter makes me think of home contents insurance. We have it, year in year out and we panic if we have not renewed it in time, scared and worried in case something happens if the policy lapses. Car insurance, same thing. We may never use it but we would never compromise such a large investment being our home and cars just in case. We would never cancel that insurance just because we’ve never had an accident or water damaged our home.

So why cancel a union membership that protects the very rights you have in a workplace which generates the income you need to keep that home and car insured along with other insurance policies, none of which are tax deductible like your union membership?

But I know this may sound like an old recruitment rant. Sometimes it is, but the underlying message is essential. When times are tough and we do cut costs, Union membership does make the culling list and that is understandable especially when the other question is “What does the membership get me?”

Some of the answers are all about the services you can and should use and the others are not so immediately clear. Professional development and accreditation courses are just the starting point, so why not use these members’ services?

And then the benefits we don’t think about like a guaranteed annual pay rise negotiated and secured by your union from your employer. The ability to ask any question and obtain representation about your rights at work knowing that the support is confidential, reflects your industrial agreement, laws and practices.

But going back to the bittersweet situation above, it is all about knowing you will have the help if and when you need it. During the course of the conversation regarding how the Union assists extensively with workplace investigations including child protection matters, the member added, “I always tell the young ones to join”.

The daily cost of Union membership is less than the barista made coffee we love every morning. We’d never give that up.

So why give up that which gives us piece of mind, which for me personally, is priceless.

Lubna Haddad