ALWU is a union made up of legal workers in New Zealand. Any worker in the legal profession has a right to join ALWU. Employers cannot ask whether you are a member, and you do not have to tell them. You cannot be discriminated by against for ALWU membership or involvement in union activities.
Have you ever wondered how much you will get paid as a graduate solicitor? How many hours you will work in an average week? Or who you can turn to if something has gone wrong in your workplace and you need some help? The Aotearoa Legal Workers Union (ALWU) aims to change the legal profession through advocacy and action. It will give you the answers to those questions, provide you with support when required, and take collective action to improve the profession you are working so hard to join.
What does ALWU want to do?
There is a power imbalance in the legal profession between those at the top and those below them. It creates an environment where exploitation, bullying and harassment can occur. ALWU is working to right that imbalance, including by increasing transparency about peoples’ experiences in legal workplaces.
As you read what firms have to say about themselves in this guide, note the prevalence of claims about valuing people, work-life balance and diversity. ALWU holds firms accountable to those claims and challenges them to implement their rhetoric. You may have read our first Employment Information Survey late last year – that is just one way that ALWU shines a light on the reality behind firms’ claims and identifies where more work is needed for them to practice what they preach.
This year, ALWU is continuing its campaign to ensure all firms are paying their staff at least the minimum wage. Due to a combination of long hours and low pay, junior lawyers at many large firms have been regularly paid less than the minimum wage when their salary payments are divided by the hours that they work. ALWU will see that fixed. ALWU is also looking to initiate collective bargaining, in which agreements will be reached that improve conditions for all employees in a workplace – enabling rapid and significant change.
What has ALWU already achieved?
Since launching in mid-2019, ALWU has gained over 700 members. It has met with New Zealand’s fifteen largest law firms to discuss their practices and policies, especially regarding compliance with the Minimum Wage Act.
As a result, almost all of New Zealand’s large law firms have reviewed their historical time and wage records, begun monitoring the hours that their employees are working and paying top-ups to over-worked employees to ensure that they are paid the minimum wage.
ALWU has conducted an Employment Information Survey and published a report that sets out junior lawyers’ salaries at the largest law firms, average hours worked, the extent to which they reported pressure to meet their budgets, and whether they would recommend working at their firm. ALWU understands that junior salaries at most firms went up considerably more than average from 2019 to 2020. We will leave you to connect the dots!
ALWU has also advocated for members in a number of disciplinary proceedings, and supported employees in making complaints about unacceptable practices and treatment.
Why should you join ALWU?
Being an ALWU member is confidential and free. If you join and need ALWU’s help, you will have access to a nation-wide support network as well as services such as free legal advice from top lawyers who have donated their time to ALWU. Even if you are not working yet, or if you love your job and think your workplace is great, you can join ALWU to support your colleagues, peers, and friends who don’t have it as good as you. Your support means ALWU can do more to help those who need it most.
Students can join ALWU as student members, so sign up today at alwu.org.nz and follow ALWU on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.