A list of terms that may help you understand some of the jargon bandied about on this page and elsewhere. These are from the ACTU glossary.


Payments made to employees that are in addition to their ordinary wage rate to compensate for some particular disability or aspect of work. Allowances are granted to employees working in hot, dirty and confined spaces; where clothing is subject to undue wear and tear; or when an employee has to pay travel or accommodation expenses.


A legal document which specifies the minimum conditions under which you are employed. It covers matters like wages, holidays, sick leave and overtime. Awards sometimes also set out the basic requirements of things like maternity leave. Employers must abide by the conditions of the award because it is a legal document.

Award Rates

The rates of pay set by an award; a set of minimum wages and conditions that are legally binding on employers and workers.

Bargaining Power

The ability to secure an agreement that is closest to your own terms and conditions as possible.

Best Practice

When businesses are internationally competitive through efficient work and management practices, including reforms such as restructuring.

Collective Bargaining

A method of negotiation to settle industrial disputes between employees and employers, which is negotiated as a group rather than as individuals.

Conditions of Employment

The terms under which an employee accepts to work in a particular job, such as a wage or salary amount and working hours. Conditions of employment are set out in an award, employment contract or an industrial agreement.


Are union membership fees. The amount you pay is usually determined by the hours you work each week or your earnings. This system is designed to be fair for everyone.

Enterprise Agreement

A negotiated deal about the conditions under which employees are employed within a business. An enterprise agreement is negotiated by an employer and employees or by their union. The Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC) checks enterprise agreements to ensure basic minimums are upheld.

Enterprise Bargaining

The process which employers and employees use to negotiate a set of rules and conditions for their workplace and which results in an enterprise agreement. Other terms to describe enterprise bargaining include: workplace bargaining, collective bargaining, over award bargaining and company bargaining.


Any unwanted or uninvited behaviour which is offensive, embarrassing, intimidating or humiliating. It is against the law for a person to be harassed because of their sex; pregnancy; race (including colour, nationality, descent, ethnic or religious background;) marital status; disability; homosexuality; age; for their relationship to or association with a person of a particular sex; race marital status etc. Harassment is a form of discrimination.

Industrial Action

An organised disruptive act taken by a group of workers – such as a strike or stop-work meeting. 'Protected industrial action' is the term used for a legal strike in Australia. Under the law employees cannot be disadvantaged for being part of a protected action.

Industrial Dispute

A disagreement between employers and workers. Some common subjects for industrial disputes are wages and conditions, occupational health and safety, unfair dismissals or environmental issues.


A union employee who helps union members with collective action in the workplace.

Right to Strike

The right of workers to withdraw their labour in order to protect their interests. The right to strike is widely regarded as a fundamental freedom, although is usually limited by certain restrictions.

Right to Work

The right of workers not to be excluded from employment because of discrimination; the right of workers to employment, a decent living, job protection and compensation.

Union Delegate

An elected union official with the responsibility of representing union members in a workplace or company. A union delegate is also responsible for ensuring that members understand what is happening with their union and that the union understands the issues which are important to the members in that particular workplace. Also known as a shop steward or a union representative.

Unpaid Trial Work

A common – and illegal – way of exploiting young people who are trying to gain work experience. Unpaid trial work should not be confused with school work experience programs. With formal work experience, clear boundaries are set as to when the work will start and finish and a nominal fee is usually paid.

Work to Rule

A conscious reduction of output by workers, by painstaking interpretation of rules such as an industrial embargo. For example, teachers may refuse to attend meetings after school hours. Also known as a go-slow.

Working Conditions

The physical environment in which you work, including the actual space, the quality of ventilation, heat, light and degree of safety.

Wrongful Dismissal

When an employee is dismissed in violation of their contract, award or the law. A wrongfully dismissed employee has the right to seek compensation for lost earnings, and can take their claim to an industrial tribunal.