United Voice

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United Voice
United Voice Logo 2012.jpg
Full name United Voice, Industrial Union of Employees
Founded 6 May 1910 (as the WCCU)
Predecessor LHMU
Members 135,654
Affiliation ACTU, ALP, IUF
Key people Jo-anne Schofield, National President
Gary Bullock, Acting National Secretary
Helen Gibbons, Assistant National Secretary
Office location 303 Cleveland Street, Redfern, New South Wales 2016
Country Australia
Website www.unitedvoice.org.au

United Voice is a large Australian trade union, with around 130,000 members. United Voice members work in a wide range of occupations including hospitality, childcare, teachers' aides, aged care, property services (cleaning, security, maintenance etc.), health, manufacturing, ambulance workers (in some states) and community services. United Voice was formerly known as the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union (LHMU) (the "Missos").

United Voice is an amalgamation of the Federated Miscellaneous Workers' Union (FMWU) and Liquor Trades Union (LTU). This merger occurred in 1992 and the new union, known as the LHMU, had 200,000 members.

The union took its new name of United Voice effective 1 March 2011.[1]


Foundation and early years[edit]

United Voice was first established in 1910 as the Watchmen, Caretakers and Cleaners Union of New South Wales (W.C.C.U.),[2] which was created by the Organising Committee of the New South Wales Labor Council.[3] The task of organisation was a difficult one, due to the casualised and isolated nature of the occupations covered.[3] Under the leadership of the first Secretary of the WCCU, Joe Coote, the union adopted a pragmatic approach to increasing union membership, by including any workers not already represented by trade unions, such as paintmaking employees.[3] To reflect the growing range of industries represented, on 15 December 1915 the union amalgamated with the Victorian Branch and changed its name to the Federated Miscellaneous Workers' Union.[3][4]

After steady growth over the first half of the century, including winning paid sick leave, annual leave and a forty-hour week, the union really took off in the 1950s. A new rank-and-file leadership took over to create a vibrant, member-driven union.[5] Famous campaigns during the 1950s and 1960s included organising workers paid to be Santa Clauses at Christmas and a group of dance instructors who were locked out for four months before winning their jobs back.[5]

The strength of the "Missos" continued to grow over the years, with membership increasing from 25,000 in 1955 to 88,000 by 1975.

Modern era[edit]

By the early 1990s, the LHMU had become powerful with close links to Labor politicians such as Bob Hawke, Neville Wran and Lionel Murphy. The move of flight catering and aircraft cleaning staff to join the Transport Workers Union in the mid-1990s lost the union several thousand members. The end of compulsory unionism in 1996 with the election of the Howard Government had had a significant effect on membership, dropping from the high shortly after amalmagation to the current levels.

Since 2007, the union has reported a small but important membership growth - going against the trend of most union membership figures in Australia. Its major campaign for cleaners called Clean Start:Fair Deal for Cleaners [6] is inspired by the successful U.S. campaign Justice for Janitors and has organised many new cleaners in CBD office blocks across Australia.

The strong links with prominent Labor ministers continue, with Penny Wong and Mark Butler both former LHMU SA branch officials.[7][8]

Governance and structure[edit]

United Voice is a federation of state and territory branches. Each branch contributes financially to the national office.

National Council[edit]

The National Council is the highest decision making body in the union. It is made up of delegates from each Branch of the union, and each section within those Branches. Half of National Council’s membership is rank and file members. National Council meets in August each year. The Executive carries out the decisions of the Council.

National Executive[edit]

The National Executive is the national management committee of United Voice. National Executive meets at least twice per year, but usually around four times. Members of National executive are elected to their positions, and there are rules for proper representation of membership sections and gender. The National Secretary are elected officers of the Union who work as the chief executives and operational managers of the National Union. The National Presidents are also elected officers whose role is to chair the Council and Executive meetings.

National Secretary[edit]

David O'Byrne is the Acting National Secretary of United Voice replacing Louise Tarrant who did not renominate for the position. It is expected that he will formally be elected to the position in September 2014.[9]

State and territory branches[edit]

Each state and territory has its own branch of the union, with roughly the same structure as the national office. Each branch has a Branch Council and a Branch Executive.


In Australia, United Voice is affiliated with the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It is also a member of various other not-for-profit organisations such as the Sydney Alliance[10] and SmokeFree Australia.

Internationally, the union is affiliated with the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Association.[11]

Current and past campaigns[edit]

Big Steps is a national campaign to increase the wages of child care workers also known as early childhood education and care (ECEC). United Voice called on the federal government to give childcare centres A$1.4 billion in extra funding to increase staff wages without increasing fees for parents. They want the average wage to increase from $18.58 an hour to $26.[12][13]

Clean Start: Fair Deal for Cleaners was launched by United Voice in 2006, to highlight the problems in the CBD office cleaning industry and improve jobs for cleaners. The focus of the campaign was on fair and safe workloads, respect and fair treatment at work, job security, and higher wages.[14]

In September 2011, United Voice joined with many other unions to campaign for marriage equality for same-sex couples. The Unions for Marriage Equality campaign was timed to start a few months before the Labor National Conference in December 2011.[15]

United Voice serves on the steering committee for the Responsible Gambling Awareness Week, an annual event that focuses on the promotion of responsible gambling and services that assist people with problem gambling issues throughout Australia.[16]


  1. ^ Vice President Watson (15 February 2011). "Application for change of name of organisation". Fair Work Australia Decision. Fair Work Australia. Retrieved 25 November 2011. 
  2. ^ Sheil, Christopher (September 1991). "The Origins of Unions: Some Miscellaneous Sydney Workers in 1910". Journal of Industrial Relations. 3 33: 295–307. doi:10.1177/002218569103300301. 
  3. ^ a b c d Beasley, Margo (1996). The Missos: A History of the Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union. St Leonards, NSW: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 1-86373-649-2. 
  4. ^ Smith, Bruce (6 August 2010). "Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union of Australia". Australian Trade Union Archives. Retrieved 8 December 2011. 
  5. ^ a b "History". United Voice. Retrieved 25 November 2011. 
  6. ^ "Clean Start: Fair Deal for Cleaners". United Voice. 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2011. 
  7. ^ "Making their Mark". Lumen Winter 2005 Issue. University of Adelaide Magazine. 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2011. 
  8. ^ Butler, Mark. "About Mark". Mark Butler MP: Federal Member for Port Adelaide. Australian Labor Party. Retrieved 24 November 2011. [self-published source]
  9. ^ "Former Tasmanian Labor minister David O’Byrne takes United Voice union national job". The Mercury. 7 May 2014. Retrieved 9 May 2014. 
  10. ^ Sydney Alliance. "Partners". Sydney Alliance. Sydney Alliance. Retrieved 18 October 2012. 
  11. ^ IUF. "IUF affiliates". IUF. Retrieved 19 October 2012. 
  12. ^ "Childcare workers launch ad for better pay". The Herald Sun. Retrieved 2012-10-19. 
  13. ^ "About - Big Steps". Big Steps. Retrieved 2012-10-19. 
  14. ^ "About". Clean Start. Retrieved 2012-10-19. 
  15. ^ "Unions campaign for marriage equality". Star Online. Retrieved 2012-10-19. 
  16. ^ Responsible Gambling Awareness Week Partners

External links[edit]