What is the SDA? 

The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (SDA) had its origins in 1908. Since then it has grown to be the largest union in Australia. We cover a wide range of industries; retail and distribution, models, hairdressers, beauticians, pharmacists and pharmacy assistants, drug factory employees, fast food workers, catering employees, clerks, stores people, warehouse employees, and of course, shop assistants.

The SDA is a union that promotes the interests and defends the rights of employees in the retail, fast food and distribution industries. We act on behalf of our members to protect and improve wages and conditions of employment, as well as providing many other services.

Why should I join the SDA?

Strength and Efficiency. The SDA is a strong, efficient and progressive union that effectively represents its members. It is staffed by dedicated officials experienced in dealing with management at the highest levels.

Support. By joining a union, you gain strength and support when negotiating with employers. Improvements in wages and conditions come only because the SDA negotiates agreements with employers and appears before Industrial Commissions and other tribunals. All improvements are hard fought for and won by the SDA. As all retail employees benefit by the SDA’s activities it is only fair that everyone be a Union member and contribute.

Protection – The SDA protects its members against threats to their jobs, such as unfair dismissal, victimisation, sexual harassment, discrimination and intimidation. The SDA also ensures that members are receiving the entitlements that the Union has won for them.

The Specialists – The SDA provides staff to visit workplaces, and employs specialists in workers’ compensation, occupational health and safety, women’s issues and industrial relations in order to maintain services to members.

Do I get a say?

We greatly appreciate your input as a member of the SDA. Our role is to act on behalf of our members, so the feedback you give us is very important.

Organisers make regular visits to worksites to discuss issues with members and place Union material on staff noticeboards. Many of our enterprise agreements also provide for 15 or 30 minute Union meetings on paid company time.

One of the most effective ways to getting involved and having a say is to become a Delegate, elected by your work mates to represent them.

Who are the Delegates?

They are people who:

  • Recruit new members to the SDA.
  • Care about their workmates and the environment in which they work.
  • Help those who cannot help themselves when confronted by management.
  • Communicate information they receive from the SDA to members.
  • Interact between employees and management, employees and the SDA, and management and the SDA. They act as “go-betweens”.

To give the best service to its members the SDA needs Delegates in all areas to take up issues with employers on behalf of our members.

A delegate will receive training on issues related to the Union and its members. We supply a delegate with a copy of the relevant agreement or award, a handbook on how to approach various issues, and other printed material the SDA produces.

As well as this, a delegate is regularly contacted by the Union Organiser and receives updates in the mail.

Is SDA Membership Transferable?

The answer is not straightforward. The transfer of membership and your financial status depends on where you are transferring from and to which store you are working at. The following scenarios should answer this question, but you should always ask your pay office to make sure that your fees are being passed on to the SDA.

Transferring from one Branch of a Company to another Branch

It would normally be expected that your membership details would be passed from one store to another in this case. Your staff file would also be transferred. This should include the Authority To Deduct (fees) form that allows your new Pay Officer to commence fee deduction at that store.

However, you should always check to make sure that this occurs. This sometimes gets 'lost' in the transfer process.

Transferring from one Company to another Company

In this case, your membership payments cease from the last pay you received from your previous employer however you still remain a member and it is necessary to advise us of your new place of employment or, if you have retired or left the industry, your resignation. If this is not done then your membership fees will continue to accumulate.

At the new company you need to complete a new application form (available from your Pay Office or from the SDA Notice Board or SDA Delegate) and the new application form will be sent to our office. Your new employer will receive your Authority To Deduct (fees) and will commence weekly payroll deductions.

Transferring from Interstate

If you move interstate you must re-apply for membership at your new store even if the same Company employs you.

The issue in this case is the union ... not your employer. Although the SDA is a National Association, each Branch of the SDA operates as a separate entity.

The Rules of each Branch require that members complete an application form relevant to that State.

What does a Union do?

Unions work to protect and to advance the wages and working conditions of their members.

They are responsible for the wages and working conditions of most Australian workers.

Unions negotiate for improvements to members working conditions through enterprise bargaining to create enterprise agreements (sometimes known as EBAs) and through the award system. Unions help to ensure that employers comply with these agreements and awards.

They are responsible for obtaining social justice through improved wages and conditions for workers and their families.

The SDA also assists its members by providing advice on a number of workplace issues including unfair dismissal, sexual harassment, workers compensation claims and changes in the workplace. The SDA provides advice to its members free of charge. The only cost to members is the weekly cost of membership, which is tax deductible (if you pay tax). This fee is based on a sliding scale to ensure workers who earn lower wages pay less for their membership.

Membership includes access to union organisers who visit workplaces and provide general advice to members on a range of issues. Being a member of the union gives members access to wide-ranging advice from a number of specialists qualified in areas such as worker's compensation, occupational health and safety, women's issues and industrial relations.

Unions also act as a pressure group to lobby the government to create changes to legislation (laws). Examples of this are Occupational Health and Safety legislation, workers compensation legislation, industrial relations legislation and Paid maternity Leave legislation. Therefore, unions are able to make major improvements for many workers by promoting the interests of all workers to state and federal governments.

As well as assisting members with workplace issues, the SDA also provides a wide range of benefits and discount services. The SDA membership card offers members a selection of discount entertainment, accommodation, discount entry to theme parks and discount dining. As a member you can also take advantage of other discount services such as discount Union Shopper and health care.

Some people say that unions used to be important, but now that all workers have decent wages and conditions, that we are no longer necessary and that union demands only disrupt the economy. They say unions have outlived their usefulness. But good wages and conditions do not just happen. They come about only because unions work for them. If unions went out of existence, the workers would have no means of defending themselves and very quickly their wages and conditions would deteriorate.

Unions are vital in preserving and enhancing the wages and working conditions of workers.


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