What does ALWU do?

ALWU supports workers in the legal profession.  ALWU will advocate for their common benefit and strive for equity and inclusion for all legal workers. For more information about what ALWU does, please see our Campaigns page.

What policies can I expect from ALWU?

Over the coming months, ALWU will:

  1. Advocate for improved pay and conditions for legal workers.  ALWU’s first campaign will focus on implementing paid overtime or time in lieu across legal employers to ensure that employers comply with the Minimum Wage Act 1983.  ALWU recognises that legal workers will at times be called on to work long hours, but they should be compensated for the work they do, especially because firms bill their clients for this time.
  2. Undertake and report on a survey of pay and conditions across legal employers.  Legal workers face a major lack of transparency about their pay and the conditions that they can expect at different workplaces.
  3. Help to connect ALWU members with appropriate employment support services where they have individual issues.

In the medium term, ALWU will look to collectively bargain with employers to bring employment agreements in line with workers’ reasonable expectations.

ALWU will respond to its members. If there are ideas or issues of importance to you, Contact Us and we will endeavour to address your concerns.

Who can join?

ALWU has three types of membership:

  1. Ordinary membership
  2. Associate membership
  3. Student membership

Ordinary membership is open to anybody employed in a legal workplace who supports the purposes of the Union.  ALWU intends to represent the collective interests of people employed:

  • as a lawyer in any organisation;
  • in a policy or advocacy role that interfaces with the law; or
  • in a support role for lawyers or other legal workers.

Associate membership is open to anybody not otherwise entitled to membership but who supports the purposes of ALWU.

Student membership is open to anybody aged 16 or older who is engaged in at least their second year, or has completed within the previous two years, full time study in a nationally accredited education institution or program where the person has an interest in or, as a consequence of their study, will be qualified to be employed in, the legal profession. Part-time students and interns may join as Student Members at the discretion of the Committee.

For more information please refer to our Rules.

How do I join?

Check out our Join Us page.

How much does it cost?

Membership will be free until ALWU’s first AGM in August 2019.  Any fees ALWU charges will reflect the services it provides. Accessibility is one of ALWU’s key goals and consistent with this, the Committee intends to keep membership dues low.

Can I be a Member of more than one union?

ALWU’s rules allow for its members to be members of other unions.  However, you will need to check the rules of your other union to see if they permit this.  You can only be a party to one collective agreement.

Can my employer prevent me or disincentivise me from joining?

Your employer cannot prevent you from becoming part of a Union.  You can still join ALWU if your individual employment agreement states you cannot do anything that prejudicially affects your employer.  Your employer cannot discriminate against you on the basis of your involvement with a Union or Union Activities.

You do not have to tell your employer that you are a member of ALWU. Your membership will not be disclosed by ALWU until ALWU engages in collective bargaining with your employer. Even then, disclosure will only occur with your consent. AWLU does not intend to collectively bargain in the short-term and we will give you plenty of warning if it becomes ALWU’s intention.

What can ALWU do for members?

In its first year, ALWU will:

  1. Establish a cohesive collective voice for legal workers in New Zealand.
  2. Advocate for the collective interests of its members to improve pay and conditions, especially overtime pay, through the media and with relevant organisations, including the New Zealand Law Society.
  3. Collect and publish information on pay and working conditions at legal employers in New Zealand.
  4. Educate members about the rights of legal workers in employment relationships.
  5. Assist to connect members with appropriate employment support services where they have individual issues.

More generally, ALWU provides:

  1. A collective approach – the Union will provide an intermediary between you and your employer. By joining, workers can support each other so that they don’t have to face a problem, or negotiate improvements to their working conditions, on their own.  When workers act together they have strength, security, and greater opportunity to get what they need at work and beyond.
  2. Representation – the Union can arrange representation when you are experiencing employment issues.
  3. Community – the Union will link you with like-minded individuals who can provide community and support.

Does ALWU aim to collectively bargain ?

A key advantage of a union is that it provides a vehicle for Collective Bargaining, including across multiple employers.  Because ALWU is so new, we will not be able to do this in the short-term. However, it remains a medium-term goal.

Where is ALWU based?

Committee members are currently based in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. We are actively seeking to expand to other parts of New Zealand.  You can join the Union regardless of where in New Zealand you are based. If you are interested in joining the Committee, please Contact Us.

Why do I need ALWU?

You may be very happy in your current job. However, the feedback that the Committee has received is that a positive experience in the law is often a lottery. ALWU aims to ensure greater levels of consistency and accountability across legal workplaces.

ALWU does not exist solely for legal workers unhappy in their jobs. We will, of course, assist those experiencing employment issues and any problems in their workplace. However, the majority of the legal profession is made up of good employers with valued employees. We aim to hold all employers accountable to this standard.

By supporting and being a member of ALWU, you are backing our mission. The more members we have, the greater ability we have to support both you and your peers.

Why do legal workplaces need a union?

On 14 February 2018, Newsroom broke the story regarding sexual assault at one of New Zealand’s premier law firms. Following that story, there was an outpouring of junior lawyers sharing their experiences of sexual harassment and exploitation at work. The vulnerable members of the legal profession are often undervalued and exploited – whether that be through over-work or mistreatment.

One year on, ALWU is not convinced enough change has occurred to respond to the issues identified with our profession in the wake of Newsroom’s story. The attrition rate of young lawyers means New Zealand loses brilliant legal minds. ALWU wants to work with the Law Society and employers to improve working conditions and protect those workers to ensure they are able to stay in the legal profession. Where individuals feel unable to speak up about the conditions in their workplaces, their only options are to leave an employer or the profession altogether. We want to provide an alternative.

It is vital that students and young professionals work in places that treat them with respect and support them in the early years of their career. ALWU will ensure young lawyers’ voices are heard. It is a starting point to see that support improve.

Fletcher Boswell New Zealand Law Students’ Association