Established July 1993 (earliest precursor union established 1881)
Trading name: Australian Services Union (ASU)
Registered as: Australian Municipal, Administrative, Clerical and Services Union (AMACSU)
The Australian Municipal, Administrative, Clerical and Services Union, trading as the Australian Services Union (ASU), was formed on July 1, 1993, following a vote by members of the Federated Clerks' Union (FCU), the Federated Municipal and Shire Council Employees Union (MEU), and the Australian Municipal, Transport, Energy, Water, Ports, Community & Information Services Union (ASU) to amalgamate.
The 'new' ASU had the FCU as host Union and continued to use the trading name of the Australian Services Union.
The present ASU is one of the largest unions in Australia with an estimated membership of 135,000.
Previous substantial amalgamations include the following:
- July 1, 1991: Municipal Officers' Association, the Australian Transport Officers' Federation and the Technical Services Guild of Australia amalgamated to form the Australian Municipal, Transport, Energy, Water, Ports, Community & Information Services Union (trading as the Australian Services Union or ASU).
- July 1992: the Australian Social Welfare Union joined the ASU.
- October 1992: West Australian Railway Officers Association joined the ASU.
- November 1992: the Australian Shipping & Travel Officers Association joined the ASU.
Trade unions are democratic organisations and carry out elections on a regular basis to select leadership officials.
All ASU Branch full time officials are elected by the rank and file and serve a four year term (elections were held in 2015 and the next elections will be held in 2019). Honorary position holders are also elected by the rank and file. They serve either a two year or a four year term.
The National full time officers are elected by and from members of the National Executive. The honorary National President and National Vice-President are elected by National Executive from Branch representatives on National Executive. All national office holders serve a four year term.
The Australian Services Union was formed on 1 July 1993 following a ballot of members in favour of amalgamation of the Federated Clerks Union of Australia, the Federated Municipal and Shire Council Employees' Union of Australia and the Australian Municipal, Transport, Energy, Water, Ports, Community and Information Services Union (former ASU, also known as ASU Mark I).
The ASU now represents the interests of around 135,000 members who work in local government, energy, water, public transport, rail, airlines, shipping, travel, ports, social and community services, information technology, call centres and private sector clerical and administrative employment. You can read more about ASU coverage here.
The amalgamation brought together these three unions as partners within a new organisation, the ASU, which introduced a modern structure that would ensure a representative and democratic Union for all.
The formation of the ASU set the framework for ongoing growth, which is enabling the Union to firmly secure its position within the industries it covers.
Municipal Employees' Union (MEU)
The Federated Municipal and Shire Council Employees' Union (FMSCEU) is one of the few remaining labourers' unions of the many formed in the late 19th century, still in existence today.
The FMSCEU of Australia can trace its history from 1903 in New South Wales with the formation of the Sydney Municipal Employees' Union and 1885 in Victoria when a small group of workers at Melbourne City Council formed themselves into the Corporation Labourers' Union.
In 1910 the name was changed to the Municipal Employees' Association in order to reflect a wider membership from other councils and shires.
In 1914, after attempting to form a federation with Tasmanian and New South Wales municipal unions with the aim of achieving an industry wide award, the title of Federated Municipal Employees' Association of Australia was registered in the Arbitration Commission. This was altered in 1917 to Federal Municipal and Shire Council Employees' Union of Australia, shortly before the first federal log of claims was served. However, the shorter title of Municipal Employees' Union was in common use from that time.
As one of the first unions to try to gain a federal award under the Arbitration Act, its claim became a famous test case in Australian legal and industrial history. Known as the Municipalities Case, it led to a High Court challenge by councils on the power of the Arbitration Commission to make industry-wide agreements. This resulted in the first clear definition of industry, not only winning for the union its first award but opening the way for all unions to claim industry-wide awards.
Australian Services Union - Mark I (ASU)
The former ASU was formed on 1 July 1991 following a vote of members of the Municipal Officers' Association, the Australian Transport Officers' Federation and the Technical Service Guild to amalgamate, forming a union of 70,000 members.
Municipal Officers' Association
The MOA was formed in 1920 at a meeting of Municipal Officers. It originated in a staff association formed at Melbourne City Council and gained registration as a union in 1921. At that time it had just one Branch and 119 members. Over the decades, MOA expanded its area of coverage and diversity of membership beyond the white collar local government filed through a series of mergers with staff associations in similar fields of employment and occupations, to a peak of 48,000 in 1991.
Just prior to amalgamation, MOA membership comprised white collar areas of local government, energy, transport, water and ports industries across Australia.
Australian Transport Officers' Federation
The ATOF began as the Railway and Tramway Officers' Association registered in New South Wales in 1913 and believed to be the first registration of an organisation of salaried railway and tramway employees in Australia.
In 1924 that organisation amalgamated with the first federally registered organisation of salaried officers, the Victorian Railways Administrative Officers' and Clerks' Association which was formed in 1921. The name of the amalgamated union was the Federation of Salaried Officers of Railways Commissioners.
Throughout this time the organisation was making ongoing changes to its constitutional coverage. In 1945 it expanded beyond the rail area to include salaried officers engaged in connection with air transport, provided they were employed on or behalf of the Crown.
In 1947 the name was changed to the more familiar name of the Australasian Transport Officers' Federation and in 1978 changed from 'Australasian' to 'Australian'.
In 1970, the eligibility rules were changed again when coverage of private industry airlines was included. This allowed coverage of the Ansett Airlines group, East-West airlines and all overseas operators.
Technical Service Guild
The TSG was formerly the National Service Guild, an in-house state-registered staff organisation within the company NCR.
Registration of a union to represent employees in the business equipment, electronics and newly developing computer industry came about as a result of the deterioration of conditions in the industry in the late sixties.
The 1960s was a period of change in the fields of electro-mechanics and mainframe computers, but no satisfactory award existed which could offer protection.
In its early years, the Technical Service Guild worked to establish a Federal Award which it gained in 1971, amid the fiercely anti-union sentiment of large employer groups in the industry. Over the next few years the Guild established Branches in most states, and despite its scarce resources continued to organise and protect workers in what has now become the information technology field.
West Australian Railway Officers' Association
The ASU has also pressed ahead as a leading transport union. In May 1992, the West Australian Railway Officers' Association voted strongly in favour of amalgamation between ASU and WAROU. WAROU's 1200 members now form the Rail Industry Division within the ASU WA Branch.
Australian Social Welfare Union
Another major step forward was taken with the further amalgamation between the ASU and the 6,500 member Australian Social Welfare Union in July 1992. ASWU members are employed in the non-government social and community services sector (SACS) and now form the SACS Industry Division at a Branch and National level. The addition of the SACS area into the ASU provided a vital link into the private sector, bringing together workers in the SACS area within local government with their colleagues employed by non-government SACS agencies.
Australian Shipping and Travel Officers Association
Building on our existing base in transport and travel, in February 1993 the 3,200 member Australian Shipping and Travel Officers' Association (ASTOA) amalgamated with the ASU.
More information can be found in the ATUA Archives:
- ASU, Australian Municipal Administrative Clerical & Services Union (i) (1993 - 1994)
- ASU, Australian Municipal Administrative Clerical & Services Union (ii) (1994 - )
- ASU, Australian Municipal Transport Energy Water Ports Community & Information Services Union (i) (1991 - 1992)
- ASU, Australian Municipal Transport Energy Water Ports Community & Information Services Union (ii) (1992 - 1993)
- ASU, Australian Municipal Transport Energy Water Ports Community & Information Services Union (iii) (1993)
Federated Clerks Union of Australia (FCU)
The FCU was formed in 1911 by 107 clerical workers in Melbourne. At this time offices were still staffed mainly by male clerks, though women were entering this field in increasing numbers. Wages and working conditions were very poor, with male clerical workers earning less than the basic wage of 48 shillings a week and women entitled to only half the male rate.
In 1912 in Victoria, a female section was established within the FCU to organise the female clerical workforce and campaign for equal pay for women in the industry, led by one of the pioneering women of the Australian Labor movement, Ellen Mulcahy.
A federal union was formed by registering the FCU with the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and by 1920 there were branches of the union in all states.
Membership grew rapidly, in part due to the recruitment of clerks temporarily employed by government departments during World War 1, but it struck serious difficulties during the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Membership grew again when tally clerks, the traditional backbone of the FCU membership received a federal award in 1937. The award covered permanent and casual tally clerks working for shipping companies in the ports of NSW, Victoria, Tasmania and South Australia. In 1942 the FCU won a new award for thousands of Commonwealth temporary clerks working in the army, navy and airforce departments. The following year tally clerks received a new federal award covering all states. After World War Two more federal awards were achieved in the oil, airlines and wool industries. By 1950, membership had reached almost 53,500. IN 1974 membership reached a peak of 110,000.
More information at the ATUA Archives: