New union calls for change in the legal sector 20 May 2019 The Aotearoa Legal Workers’ Union (ALWU) launches today to advocate for all legal workers and to improve working conditions for junior lawyers in the legal sector.
The revelations of bullying, burnout and sexual harassment in leading law firms over the past year has exposed an unhealthy and inequitable legal culture. The Bazley report in particular highlighted these issues and recommended important changes.
But almost a year after the report, many of the central recommendations are yet to be implemented across the profession. The issues go beyond bullying and harassment. Many junior legal workers also work long hours on low salaries and without overtime pay. In some cases, they are effectively paid below minimum wage.
“A fairer, safer and more supportive legal profession is possible,” says Hayley Coles, interim ALWU President. “It is ironic that these problems occur within the profession tasked with upholding justice.”
These problems persist because the voices of all legal workers—and particularly junior legal workers—are rarely heard. ALWU exists to change that. ALWU will act on the mandate of its members to ensure lawyers can thrive in their workplace and not just survive.
This means safe and supportive working conditions and fair pay for their work. ALWU’s initial priorities will be to:
• Survey legal workers to gain accurate information about pay and conditions across employers, and publish the results.
• Launch a campaign for all legal work to be paid fairly for all hours worked.
• Connect members with appropriate employment support services where they have individual issues in their workplaces. In the medium term, ALWU seeks to collectively bargain with employers to ensure employment agreements meet workers’ reasonable expectations.
ALWU encourages all legal workers to join today to have their voices heard and to help enact real change. ALWU membership is open to all workers in the legal industry in both the private and public sector, including administrative and support staff.
“ALWU believes legal work is an essential part of a healthy democracy. We look forward to working with legal employers, the Law Society and other stakeholders to ensure the contribution of all legal workers is recognised,” says Coles.
Join ALWU today ALWU encourages all legal workers to join here: https://alwu.org.nz/join/