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About the QCU

We lead unions to fight for political, social and economic justice for Queensland workers and their families.

Who We Are

Representing workers since 1885

The Queensland Council of Unions (QCU) is the peak union body in Queensland with 25 affiliated unions representing the interests of almost 400,000 Queensland workers.

Since its foundation in 1885, the QCU — as the peak body for the Queensland trade union movement — has strived to achieve industrial, social and political justice for Queensland workers.

An Executive comprised of representatives from affiliate unions directs and oversees operation of the QCU.

What We Do

A public voice for workers

The fundamental role of the QCU is to:

  • advocate for improvements to industrial, work health and safety, and other laws impacting on workers and their families
  • organise and coordinate major campaigns with affiliates.
  • undertake research for affiliated unions;
  • represent the interests of workers through media, social media and general communications;
  • prepare and advocate test cases on behalf of state and local government employees;
  • prepare submissions and advocate before Government and Parliamentary Committees;
  • coordinate affiliate unions across a range of forums such as work health and safety, women, First Nation’s workers, and LGBTIQA+ workers.
  • provide a range of services to affiliate unions and union members, including in the areas of work health and safety, workers’ compensation and support services, and young workers’ advocacy.


Where we operate

Network of statewide branches

The QCU has an extensive network of branches, active in 13 centres across the state from Coolangatta to Cape York.

The branches co-ordinate local activities, including organising annual Labour Day events, which attract many thousands of workers and community supporters to celebrate the achievements of the trade union movement.

The branches co-ordinate local activities, including organising annual Labour Day events, which attract many thousands of workers and community supporters to celebrate the achievements of the trade union movement.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the QCU have branches in my area?

The Queensland Council of Unions is unique in that it has fully functioning branches across the state.

If you would like to get involved with the Queensland Council of Unions branch nearest you, you can see all their details, including meeting times, and contact details of office bearers here.

Do you run any campaigns?

We sure do! The Queensland Council of Unions campaigns on many issues, like preserving Penalty Rates, Domestic Violence Prevention and the Campaign for 10 Days Domestic Violence leave. We campaigned hard for Queensland to become the first state in Australia with Labour Hire Licensing and Workplace Manslaughter Laws.

How is the QCU managed?

The QCU Executive is the final decision-making body of the Queensland Council of Unions.  It meets every month. You can read more about the QCU Executive here.

What have unions ever done for me?

So many things we take for granted and are now enshrined in law were secured for working Australians by workers in their unions. Unions work to defend and improve these conditions for all working Australians:

Annual Leave

Paid Annual Leave was first won after a campaign by printing workers in 1936. The Arbitration Commission granted the workers paid leave, which was then gained by other workers through their unions in different industries. Annual leave loading of 17.5 per cent was first won by workers in the Metal Industry in 1973.


Awards are legally binding documents that set out the minimum entitlements for workers in every industry. The first industrial award, the Pastoral Workers Award was established by the Australian Workers Union in 1908, mainly covering shearers. The shearers had experienced a terrible deterioration of their wages and conditions during the 1897 Depression and decided to take action to protect working people. Since 1904, awards have underpinned the pay and terms and conditions of employment for millions of workers. Awards are unique to Australia and integral in ensuring workers get ‘fair pay for a fair day’s work’.

Penalty Rates

Penalty rates were established in 1947, when unions argued in the Arbitration Commission that people needed extra money for working outside normal hours.

Parental leave

Australian unions’ intensive campaigning for paid parental leave ended in victory with the introduction of the Paid Parental leave scheme by the Gillard Labor government. Under the scheme, working parents of children born or adopted after 1 January 2011 are entitled to a maximum of 18 weeks’ pay on the National Minimum Wage.


Prior to 1986, only a select group of workers were entitled to Superannuation. It became a universal entitlement after the ACTU’s National Wage Case. Employers had to pay 3% of workers’ earnings into Superannuation. This has now been increased to 9.5%, and unions continue to campaign for it to be raised to 12%.

Equal Pay for Women

Although there were attempts to introduce equal pay going back as far as 1949, the principle of equal pay for women was finally adopted by Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in 1969.

Health and Safety and Workers’ Compensation

Workers compensation laws first came into existence in West Australia in 1902. For many years unions agitated and campaigned for health and safety laws which compelled employers to provide a safe working environment. In Victoria, legislation was introduced in 1985 which saw the active role of workers in maintaining safety on the job. Building unions agitated for many years to ban the use of asbestos, finally succeeding in the 1980’s.

Sick leave

Before sick leave, you turned up to work if you were sick, or you went without pay. Sick leave provisions began to appear in awards in the 1920’s and unions have campaigned hard for better sick leave conditions over the years, across all industries.

Long service leave

Coal workers went on strike in 1949 over a 35 hour week and Long service leave. Long service leave was finally introduced in New South Wales in 1951. Unions in other states followed.

Redundancy pay

The Arbitration Commission introduced the first Termination, Change and Redundancy Clause into awards due to work by metalworkers and their union. This entitled workers to redundancy pay.

Allowances: shift allowance, uniform allowance

Unions in different industries have campaigned for allowances that pertain to their members. Many workers who are required to wear uniforms in their jobs, get an allowance for this rather than having to pay for uniforms themselves.

Shift allowances are money that’s paid for working at night or in the afternoon. Different industries have different allowances that were won by workers and their unions over the years.

Meal Breaks, rest breaks

Before unions agitated for meal breaks and rest breaks to be introduced, workers were required to work the whole day without a break. In 1973, workers at Ford in Melbourne engaged in industrial action over many issues, one of their demands being a proper break from the production line.

Collective Bargaining

Enterprise Bargaining was introduced in 1996 which allowed workers and their unions to negotiate directly with their employer over pay and conditions. Evidence from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that collective bargaining delivers better wages than individual agreements for ordinary workers.

Unfair Dismissal Protection

Unfair Dismissal Protection came from the concept of a “fair go all round”, after the Australian Workers Union took a case to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on behalf of a worker who had been unfairly sacked in 1971. Since then, unions have campaigned for laws that reflect that ‘fair go’ principle, which is about having a valid reason to sack someone and that the dismissal cannot be harsh, unjust or unreasonable.

Why should I join a union?

Joining your union is the best way to secure a better life – at work and at home. You can join online here.

Unions are all about workers standing up for ourselves and our workmates. Together we’ve won important rights – like sick pay, annual leave, penalty rates and reasonable work hours.

We just want fair wages, and enough time to spend away from work with our family and friends. We want certainty of hours, and security to plan for the future.

It’s not a lot to ask. By joining, you’ll help secure a better life for you and those who have yet to come.

You’ll also gain access to protection at work, better wages and great member-only benefits like cheaper movie tickets, mortgages and car hire.

If you have any questions, call Australian Unions.


1300 486 466