With virtual universities appearing round the world, Australia will soon have a virtual union for professionals in the information technology sector.
The Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers is setting up the online union to ensure that workers are offered reasonable employment contracts and remuneration packages. The association estimates that 500,000 professionals could benefit and that a significant proportion would like to access information that a union might offer but "can't get to the gate and join a union".
Association chief executive John Vines said members of the virtual union would pay $80 to $100 for a year's subscription - a third of the cost of normal membership.
Mr Vines said IT employees would benefit most from the service, which, unlike the union's traditional method of physically representing members in negotiations, would provide only information. Employees would have to speak to their employers individually if the need arose.
Mr Vines said a range of information would be available, including employment contracts, remuneration levels (which can be compared with other industry standards), and advice on working abroad.
If negotiations with an employer were unsuccessful, the virtual union would provide a fee for service. "In this case we will sit down with them and work up submissions to take to their employer," he said.