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Pay equity: a recent history and why it matters to us

Pay equity: a recent history and why it matters to us

Workers in the community sector, including workers here at DVRCV, are now waiting to see if we will get paid on par with our government counterparts. We encourage friends and supporters of DVRCV to join us at the  Day of Action on Equal Pay rally on 15 December to show your support for equal pay. In Australia, community workers earn $15,000 (or 37%) less per year than their government counterparts. 80% of workers in the community sector are women.

The case for pay equity

In March 2010, the Australian Services Union (ASU) presented a case to Fair Work Australia that called for a $100 a week pay increase for the 200,000 community sector workers. The ASU is the largest union of workers in the social and community services (SACS) sector. Fair Work Australia is the national workplace relations tribunal. The case has the potential to transform pay rates for workers in the community sector doing work that is seen as undervalued and underpaid.

Who is "the community sector"?

Here at DVRCV, we're part what iscommonly termed the non-government social and community services industry or the 'SACS' sector. The term non-government can be misleading as most organisations or services receive funding from the government - however, workers are not employed by the government. Workers are generally employed by community based management committees, boards or collectives who administer government funds and manage the organisation or service. (At DVRCV, the Governance Group oversees our operations.)

Jobs include:

Case manager Solicitor Mediator Youth Worker
Refuge Worker Social Worker Disability Support Worker Community Development Worker

The places people work include:

Employment and training services Community legal centres Community or neighbourhood centres Home and community care services
Family support services Disability services Family day care centres Women's refuges

A recent history of the ASU pay equity case

No more lip service to equal pay: ASU campaign

May 2009

  • Queensland is the first (and only) state to make a new award for SACS workers that represents pay equity.

November 2009

  • As Federal Employment Minister, Julia Gillard agrees with the ASU to support the principle of the test case to establish an "equal remuneration principle".
  • A five-year phase-in period for pay changes is agreed, if the Fair Work Australia case is successful.
  • Community workers rally for equal pay in Melbourne and Adelaide.

March 2010

  • ASU lodges the Equal Pay claim for social and community services (SACS) workers to Fair Work Australia.
  • ASU launches a new campaign around the pay equity claim: No more lip service to equal pay.

June 2010

  • Thousands of community workers march to the Victorian House of Parliament to demand equal pay.

July 2010

  • Victoria's Brumby Government supports the Equal Pay claim and commits to underwriting a pay rise for the sector.

November 2010

  • The Federal Government's submission to Fair Work Australia on the pay equity case highlights the potential cost of the wage increases and the threat it poses to returning the budget to surplus.
  • Unions and community workers see this as a 'backflip' to the government's earlier commitment to pay equity.

Pay equity and family violence

For those of us working in family violence -  it’s not only about pay rates. The struggle for pay equity is part of a broader issue. A major factor underlying the perpetration of violence against women is the unequal distribution of power and resources between women and men. Low pay rates in female-dominated industries create and maintain this inequality. If the federal government is serious about its commitment to the elimination of violence against women then it must take action to address the underlying causes. Yes, implementing pay equity will be costly but we need to weigh that against the ongoing costs of gender inequality. The cost of men’s violence against women and children in 2008-2009 was estimated to be $13.6 billion.

Pay equity and a female workforce

In its case to Fair Work Australia, the ASU argued that work in the community sector has been undervalued because this workforce was predominantly female. The case drew on arguments that were successful in achieving large pay increases for social and community services workers in Queensland. While the Gillard government made a pre-election promise to support the case, in its submission to Fair Work Australia it expressed concerns about cost implications. It told the tribunal that the government could not afford higher wages without cutting services. The ASU has been seeking a commitment from the federal government to honour its election promise and implement the pay increases if the case is successful. Any increases, which would apply from July 2011, would be introduced over a period of years. Given the implications for state government budgets, it is likely that funding to services would have to be increased to reflect any new pay levels.

Rally 15 December

Join the Day of Action on Equal Pay rally on 15 December at 12 noon at the State Library, Melbourne.

Related links

Image credit

Equal Pay rally on 10 June, 2010 on Flickr by ASU Victoria.