United Voice is one of Australia’s oldest and largest unions, with a proud progressive history of more than 100 years of making life better for working Australians everywhere.

While we have called ourselves by different names over the years as we’ve amalgamated and grown, the essence of who we are remains — big, bold and active.


Many different unions have come together over the years to form the present day United Voice; they have all been committed to building active, worker-led organisation. 

By working together, union members have won many benefits that all Australians enjoy, including annual leave, a liveable minimum wage, paid parental leave, the Modern Award system and much more. The Your Rights at Work campaign ensured that the Labor Government was elected, and the highly regressive Work Choices was successfully defeated.

Through United Voice, members have won better agreements in all industries. Most recently, United Voice members have secured the jobs of thousands of childcare professionals left in limbo by the collapse of ABC Learning. Elsewhere, members have achieved better wages, conditions and a voice on the job by winning our Clean Start campaign in city buildings.


United Voice is innovative and ambitious. But, most importantly, we’re effective at winning better jobs. 

Working together, we know that we can build stronger communities and a sustainable future — a fairer society that we’re all proud of for future generations of Australia.  

Today, the union movement is at a critical turning point. All too often we are faced with an ideology of greed and division that aims to create a culture of individual wealth for the few. More than ever, we should remember and take courage from the lessons of our history—workers who stand together can achieve amazing things.  

The benefits we all enjoy today were won by the collective struggle of workers who came before us, and we remain proud to leave a legacy we’re proud of for future generations of Australians. 



2012 – Federal government announces that it will help fund increased professional wages for aged care employees following joint campaign by United Voice, aged care employers and other aged care unions.

2011 – 1 March 2011: LHMU becomes United Voice.

Union signs historic deal with IHG Hotel chain for an enterprise agreement and ethical treatment of employees.

2010 - LHMU launches the Fair Share for Aged Care campaign and initiates the first low paid bargaining claim in Fair Work Australia.

Clean Start campaign is extended to retail shopping centres.

2009 - LHMU secures the jobs of thousands of childcare professionals left in limbo by the collapse of ABC Learning.

Federal ALP government announces its support for the Clean Start campaign and indicates it will apply in government buildings.

ALP government introduces Fair Work Act.

2008 – LHMU launches BIG STEPS in Early Education and Childcare Campaign seeking professional wages for early childhood educators.

2007 – LHMU joins other unions in the massive grassroots political campaign Your Rights At Work. LHMU members conduct thousands of conversations about Your Rights at Work with workers and other members of the community over the phone, and face-to-face in shopping centres and neighbourhoods around Australia. The Howard Government is defeated and the Rudd Labor Government is successfully elected. 

Louise Tarrant is elected National Secretary of the LHMU – the first woman to lead the union at the national level. Jeff Lawrence, previous LHMU National Secretary is elected Secretary of the ACTU.

Clean Start agreement is triggered in the CBD of major Australian capital cities.

2006 – LHMU launches the Clean Start: Fair deal for Cleaners campaign. This campaign brings together thousands of cleaners in 9 cities across Australia and New Zealand to fight for fair solutions in the contract cleaning industry. 


2005 – After a long running national campaign in the childcare sector, LHMU signs a collective agreement with ABC Learning, guaranteeing better pay and conditions for carers and bringing thousands of new members into the union. 

Re-elected Howard government introduces Work Choices legislation stripping away the last institutional protections of the old industrial relations system from Australian workers. Millions of Australian workers brought into the Federal IR system.

2002 – LHMU adopts the Organising for the Future framework – a set of new organising and campaigning techniques aiming to grow the union through grassroots activity. The framework is in recognition of the breakdown of the old arrangements due to the decline of award coverage and falling union membership.

1996 – Howard government elected and “first wave” industrial relations legislation introduced. Increased restrictions placed on the legitimate activities of workers and their unions. 

1995 – 2000 – LHMU consolidates and rejuvenates, with many new women elected to leadership positions, including Annie Owens, Sharryn Jackson and Helen Creed. 

1995 – The Bakery Employees and Salespersons Federation Association of Australia amalgamates with the LHMU.

1993 – Pastrycooks, Bakers, Biscuitmakers, and Allied Trades Union amalgamates with LHMU.

1993 – Industrial Relations Act introduces enterprise bargaining into the Australian IR framework.

1992 – The Federated Miscellaneous Workers’ Union (FMWU) and Federated Liquor and Allied Industries Employees Union (FLAIEU) amalgamate to form a new union representing workers in over 500 occupations. This creates the Australian, Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Workers Union which later shortens its name to LHMU.

FMWU key dates:

1990 – Jeff Lawrence is elected General Secretary of the Federated Miscellaneous Workers’ Union (FMWU) replacing Martin Ferguson.

1984 – Long serving General Secretary Ray Gietzelt retires. Union membership is around 124,000 members.

1983 to 1990 – The newly elected Federal Hawke Labor Government introduces the Prices & Incomes Accord, to which the FMWU is an active party. Significant structural changes occur to the Australian economy during this period which are to have far reaching effect including the floating of the dollar and the dismantling of tariffs.

1982 – Hospital Employees’ Industrial Union of Western Australia amalgamates with FMWU.

1981 – FMWU amalgamates with South Australian union, Australian Government Workers Association (AGWA). 

1979 – The ACTU campaigns for and wins unpaid maternity leave. Changes and amendments to 30 awards result in improvements in sick leave, shift penalties, overtime, increased junior rates, annual leave, district allowance provisions and meal times. Equal pay for women is legislated.

1970s – FMWU merges with Queensland Ambulance Employees’ Union. The Victorian Branch organises stoppages because insurance companies freeze compensation to asbestos victims. FMWU negotiates the James Hardie Financial Benefit, which is a national payment arrangement for victims of asbestosis. 

1971 – Amalgamation with the Northern Australian Workers Union.

1968 – Amalgamation with Amalgamated Foodstuffs and Allied Industries Union of Queensland

1967 – Australia Leather & Allied Trades Employees’ Federation (ALATEF) federal merger brings five state branches with 7000 members, boosting FMWU numbers to more than 62,000 members. The union also merges with the Sugar Workers Employees’ Union of NSW. 

1966 – Amalgamation with Hairdressers’ Union of Tasmania. NSW school cleaners’ industrial action against attempts by the Liberal Askin Government to replace them with contract labour results in the government abandoning the scheme. This dispute was the longest in the 50 years of the NSW Branch’s history and involved 5000 women, many of whom were single mothers and widows. 

1962 – Amalgamation with Operative Stonemasons’ Society of Southern Australia and the Federated Lift Attendants’ Union of Victoria

1960 – ACT branch of the FMWU established. NSW branch Organiser and later assistant secretary Jack Dwyer unionises Santa Claus staff during Christmas. 

1959 – Arthur Murray dispute involving dance instructors who worked under contract with franchisee Craig Williams Pty Ltd. The instructors were locked out and threatened with dismissal after management heard that the dancers were intending to join the union. The dispute went on for four months, and eventually the Commonwealth Industrial Court ruled in favour of the union and the dance instructors were reinstated and compensated.


1959 – FMWU amalgamates with The Metropolitan Soap and Candle Manufacturers’ Employees Union of Western Australia.

1958 – FMWU amalgamates with Lift Drivers’ Union of South Australia.

1956 to 1957 – The waterfront watchmen’s dispute is a major dispute of the mid 1950s. A twelve day work stoppage for the 500 casual watchmen produces a great result, with the rotary roster system introduced. The workers win six hour minimum shifts for casuals, five days paid sick leave a year, paid statutory holidays, double time on Sundays, increased weekend penalties, and an annual leave fund which gives casuals paid holidays for the first time. 

1955 – Ray Gietzelt elected General Secretary of the union. Membership is at 26,000.

1950s – After steady growth in the first half of the 20th century, this was a period which was committed to a revitalisation and expansion of the union. The new rank-and-file leadership produces a more vibrant and member driven union with a focus on democratisation. The FMWU also becomes a force within the left of the ALP and ACTU. The Tasmanian and Western Australian branches are established with the core of their members coming from the waterfront watchmen.

1941 – After a long battle, the union movement secures one-week leave for all union workers. 

1927 to 1933 – During the Great Depression, membership of the union halves. 

1915 – The Federated Miscellaneous Workers Union (FMWU) is established with a total membership of 1420 from NSW and VIC

1910 to 1912 – The Watchmen Caretakers and Cleaners’ Union is formed and grows to 1,133 members.

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