“Business shouldn’t see us as the enemy. They should see us as someone who could potentially assist,” Ms Nebart said.
“We can perhaps have an impact in the work health and safety space… young women, even maybe young guys are going to a house or property and being harassed, intimidated or sexually harassed.”
For a fragmented industry full of small businesses and perceived to be the domain of smart suits and flashy cars, it marks a cultural change, but Mr Roussos said students and even existing agents had raised problems with him and union representation was needed to improve standards.
“The wheels are in motion now,” Mr Roussos said. “This is just the start of something major that is going to be good for the industry.”
The industry’s largest employer group was cool on the issue. The SDA and USU were limited by geography and type of worker in the coverage they could provide, said Real Estate Employers’ Federation chief executive Bryan Wilcox.
“REEF is not currently aware of any interest from either the SDA or the USU to expand their coverage,” Mr Wilcox said.
“Should such an interest be expressed or an application lodged with the Fair Work Commission, REEF would consider its position at that time.”
Ms Nebart said her branch of the union was able to cover workers in the Newcastle, Hunter and central coast regions, but other branches were still looking into whether their own rules allowed them to cover sales agents.
Real Estate Institute of NSW chief executive Tim McKibbin played down the need for union representation of employees.
“I’m wondering whether or not we’ve got a solution here for a problem that doesn’t exist,” Mr McKibbin said.
Brian White, the chairman of Ray White Group, the country’s largest real estate agency network, dismissed the call for a unionised workplace, saying the award system covering the industry worked well and had done so for years.
“Australia’s employment law regime is complicated but that is not to say that the award system is broken and unionisation is required but it is an area that often gets media commentary,” Mr White said.