The history of the Australian Services Union reflects the ambitious nature of the union today. 

In recent years ASU members have:

- won equal pay for women in the social, community and disability services sector

- delivered the first ever workplace agreement to provide family & domestic violence leave (and then campaigned to make sure all workers can access this entitlement through the NES)

- twice blocked attempts to introduce Local Government rate-capping in South Australia

- won Portable Long Service Leave for social, community and disability workers in the Northern Territory and South Australia

- won millions of dollars in underpayments from a single employer for members in youth services

- took on tech giant Apple and delivered better pay and conditions in Apple's first ever workplace agreement

- successfully campaigned for a national Net Zero Authority to help energy workers transition out of high polluting power stations

- fought back against Qantas' attempts to undercut the wages and conditions of staff by outsourcing to labour hire companies.

We stood by our members for almost a decade after they were stood down after the collapse of Ansett in September 2001, and our members received 96 cents in the dollar, when many thought that their entitlements had been lost forever.

We were the first to organise white collar workers (then known as clerks) during the early years of Federation, the first to organise today’s digital economy (then known as the computing industry) and we were responsible for defining a recognised ‘industry’ in social and community services which had previously not been recognised. 

We continue to extend on the role the union has played over more than a century, taking on issues others see as too hard, or too ambitious. See what achievements we made in our last decade, as we look forward to what we can achieve together in the decade to come.  

Recent history of the ASU:

+ 2010
  • Portable Long Service Leave Commences: Portable Long Service Leave Commences in the ACT for Social and Community Services workers. This historic achievement is used to successfully argue for the same conditions in other states, with Victoria commencing their leave programs in 2019, Queensland in 2020 and South Australia and the Territory due to commence in 2024.
  • Australia-first, Domestic Violence Leave: ASU reaches first agreement to gain victims of domestic violence 20 days of paid leave. This Australia-first deal between the Surf Coast Shire Council and the Australian Services Union, was the world's most progressive workplace agreement on family violence at that time. Since then millions of workers across many industries have been covered by similar agreements supported by their unions, using the ASU template.
  • Former Ansett staff final payment: The ASU stood by former Ansett staff after the airline collapsed in the early 2000’s. The tenacity of our union saw members receive 96 cents in the dollar of their entitlements. In total, employees received $727.5 million. At the time of the Ansett collapse many thought they would not receive anything. The ASU will always be by your side.
  • Torres Strait Islanders gain ceremonial leave: ASU advocacy through the Fair Work Commission changes modern awards to include Torres Strait Islanders access to 10 days ceremonial leave - a clear oversight that was acted upon by the ASU.
+ 2012
  • Victory on Equal Pay: "Today is a day in a generation – a day for all women to celebrate" said then ASU Secretary Sally McManus. ASU members campaigned for Equal Pay. Many said it couldn’t be achieved. The ASU and the Gillard Government reached agreement on February 1, and the Fair Work Commission awarded a real wage increase of 23% – 45% over eight years. We love the work we do, and we deserved to be paid a fair amount.
+ 2014
  • Use Your Power: Between 2014 and 2017 we stopped the proposed privatisation of Western Power in WA. Privatisation, first pitched up in the 2014 State Budget, uniting ASU members, ETU members and the community in their opposition. Western Power privatisation became a major election issue for undecided voters, and the threat ended when the Barnett Government lost office in 2017.
+ 2017
  • Federal Government Abandoned Changes to Paid Parental Leave: ASU members working together stared down the threat by the Federal Government to remove the hard won Paid Parental Leave rights in over 420 ASU agreements. We are ambitious to see our members with good pay and leave entitlements. 
+ 2019
  • After a nine year ASU campaign years calling for a 25% pay-rise for casuals working in the community sector on weekends and public holidays, in 2019, the Fair Work Commission changed the SCHADS Award. This meant casuals working under the award must be paid their 25% casual loading in addition to overtime time and weekend penalty rates.
  • The ASU successfully campaigns against the SA Liberal Government's legislation for rate-capping in South Australia. Despite the Liberals taking this to the election as one of their key priorities, and despite powerful lobby groups such as the Property Council of Australia pressuring Labor and key cross-bench politicans to pass the legislation, ASU members working in Local Government swung into action to explain the impact of rate-capping on local services and infrastructure. We pointed to the chaos in NSW and Victoria where rate-pegging has left many councils without funds to fix roads and bridges, let alone maintain or invest in sporting or community facilities. We found that while most people initially thought rate capping was a great idea, once you had an opportunity to explain the consequences and point to real-life examples across the borders, people soon changed their minds. We organised the Local Government Association and elected councillors, and encouraged them to join us in the public campaign to block rate capping. We held rallies and spoke out in the media. ASU members lobbied politicians. And one conversation at a time, we won people over. Despite the legislation being blocked by Labor and key cross-benchers, the Liberal Government tried to pass similar legislation a second time - and ASU members successfully blocked it for a second time.
+ 2020
  • ASU Virgin members across Australia fought hard to retain strong secure jobs and working conditions in the COVID 19 pandemic and were successful. In the pandemic, job security was a top priority for the Australian Services Union who ensured 12,000 workers from kept their livelihood in 2020 alone. 
+ 2021
  • ASU members in the disability and community sector improve their conditions in the Fair Work Commission. Part time disability workers gained a minimum 2-hour payment. Part timers working in the community sector also won a minimum 3 hour payment. Part timers now able to refuse additional hours. 
+ 2022
  • After years of campaigning by ASU members, the $450 per month earning threshold for the superannuation guarantee was finally scrapped. Together, members of the ASU, SDA and ANMF ensured workers earning under $450 per month from a single employer get super on every dollar they earn. This issue disproportionately impacted affected young, lower-income and part-time workers – the majority of whom are women – and stopped them from earning super.
  • In 2022, huge wins came to fruition due to the efforts of ASU members in the campaign for paid domestic violence leave. After over a decade-long campaign led by ASU members calling for a minimum of ten days paid domestic violence leave, on 16 May 2022, the Fair Work Commission made an in-principle decision that allowed 2.66 million workers covered by Modern Awards to access to 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave. Then on 28 July 2022, Tony Burke (Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) introduced a Bill to Parliament regarding legislation to implement 10 days of domestic violence and family leave into the National Employment Standards (NES) following calls from the ASU that this lifesaving leave would save lives. Such legislation will give 11 million Australians access to 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave.

Our Values:

Our union was founded on the principles of democracy, justice, equity, dignity, collectivism, and solidarity. 

These values sit at the heart of every union campaign, and everything we do.

From the first Clerks' Strike in 1948, right up until today, I know that the ASU is fighting for me.
ASU member in Finance

Community and Disability Workers Deserve Better

We're not just fighting to keep up with inflation; we want to beat it. And for that, we need to stand together to demand a fair annual wage increase. Frontline workers supporting our communities deserve secure, decent and well-paid jobs. 2/03/2024