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Our Work Our Lives Conference Dili, Timor Leste 1 & 2 September 2011 Max Adlam Australian Services Union SA NT Branch

We want equal pay & we want it NOW!


I am very proud to have the privilege of organising for the South Australian and Northern Territory Branch of the Australian Services Union, which represents members working across many different occupations and industries. These include local government, the power generation industry, credit unions, airlines, law firms and many, many more as you may be aware, the ASU also stands for Active, Strong, and United and that s just what we strive to be. Today, auspiciously on Australia s Equal Pay Day, I am honoured to be here representing the ASU to tell you about one of our national campaigns which exemplifies that action, strength & unity; this is the campaign by union members in the community sector. It is a great privilege to be involved in our pay equity case which is an important element of the campaign for community sector workers a case and campaign which provides an historic opportunity to finally achieve pay equity in a sector where women form 85% of the workforce. You may be aware that Australia has the most sex segregated workforce of the OECD countries a fact which contributes to the inequality in pay between Australian men and women workers. It was last century, in 1972, when the legal principle of equal pay for equal work was formally established in Australia; a principle wherein a man and a woman doing the same job should be paid the same amount. And subsequently the principle of equal pay for work of equal value was also won, though never fully implemented.

The successful equal pay cases did however have the effect of reducing the pay gap in Australia between men and women; in effect women moved over time from getting 75% of what men got paid, to around 82%. However in the years since the Equal Pay Decisions, we have been unable to achieve real equal pay in fact, over the last 10 years, the gap has again widened. The main reason why today there is an 18% gap between the earnings of men & women in Australia, why it takes women

68 more days than men to earn the

same amount is because those occupations that are dominated by women, are grossly undervalued. Work in industries dominated by women especially work with a caring dimension, or which is seen as women s work , is deemed less skilled and is less valued than other work. This cannot and will not continue. The community sector has within it the highest number of multiple tertiary degree holders. As earlier stated, 85% of workers in the community sector are women. Their work in the community sector provides one of the starkest examples of the shocking undervaluing of the work in industries dominated by women. For example A disability support worker who supports, cares for and is the person who ensures that a person with a disability lives with dignity and is socially included, generally earns the same amount as a person who stacks supermarket shelves (also valuable work of course). A case worker in a youth homeless shelter who provides professional counselling and support for young people who have experienced such severe abuse or neglect they cannot not live at home, gets paid just over the Australian minimum wage. A community worker in an organisation like Dawn House or the Darwin Aboriginal and Islander Women s Shelter which supports women and children when they are in

crisis who ensures they do not end up living on the street - generally earns about $25 000 less than a worker doing similar work in the public sector. We are continually in awe of the work that community sector workers do, day in day out, with and for our most vulnerable citizens. The profound difference their deep commitment and care makes to the lives of those with whom they work cannot be overestimated. When we ask community sector workers about why they do the work they do, they always reply that they do it because they care, because they want to do something worthwhile that actually makes a difference. No one has ever said it is for the money or the status. But that care and commitment can no longer be taken for granted; whilst this commitment, care and wanting to make a difference are most admirable, this commitment, care and wanting to make a difference do not buy the groceries and do not pay the rent. These workers we talk with cannot and are not continuing to stay in the community sector because they simply cannot afford to. 52% of workers in the community services sector now report that they do not intend to be in the sector in five years time. The factor most cited for this inability to stay in the sector, is low rates of pay. 77% of managers now also report that low pay is the greatest barrier to retention and attraction of workers. Community sector organisations now say that they cannot continue to provide the quality services that they do, that they cannot even tender to provide some of these services because attraction and retention of skilled workers is so difficult that they cannot guarantee that they will have a sustainable workforce able to provide the service into the future. Alarmingly, clients of the sector now report how hard it is for them to access a service, build a relationship of trust with a worker, to tell their story to a worker, often pouring out their heart and soul out about private issues they have experienced throughout their lives, only to access that service again and find that

the worker is no longer there, or indeed that the organisation can no longer provide that service. This situation cannot continue. Our community sector s work with some of the most marginalised members of our community can no longer simply be seen as women s work , as care work, as something that one should volunteer to do, its value to our society and to our economy must be recognised. This is why early last year we launched historic action through our pay equity case for community sector workers in Fair Work Australia, to apply the new equal pay principles that Labor introduced after winning government in 2007. So how did our case come about in legal terms and how is it going? For all of the reasons I have just spoken about, addressing the workforce issues is imperative to the securing of ongoing quality service provision to our most vulnerable citizens. The sector has a long history of battles for industrial legislation and for industrial rights; in 1983 the Community Youth Support Schemes (CYSS) case went to the High Court to secure award and industrial coverage for the social welfare sector. In that year, the graduate rate for a community sector worker was established as equivalent to the wage for an independent school teacher however the gap between the graduate rate for a community sector worker and for an independent school teacher is now $20k - $25,000 per annum. Since 2007, more than 20 inquiries and reports on workforce issues for the community services sector have been produced by State Governments, Federal Government, the Productivity Commission, the Not For Profit sector and our Union. These reports show that there are the same issues in all states and territories around the community sector issues pertaining to workforce, government funding, lack of bargaining and a wage gap profound and hard to make up through existing mechanisms.

Over the past two years we have also been presented with the new IR system the Fair Work Act 2009 which has presented some challenges as well as some opportunities. For example, the corporations power issue had been a big and complex one for the community services sector under the previous legislation, with so many non-trading corporations in the sector; likewise, the issues which arose through having a sector split between Federal and State systems provided challenges to addressing the workforce issues in a comprehensive manner. In addition, we had the Award modernisation process to deal with 47 different industry State and Federal awards being modernised into one modern award the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Award 2010. In April 2008 our ASU Qld Branch created a new State Award to apply to non-trading corporations. After the Award was made we started the process to adjust the award rates for pay equity. We used Qld pay equity principles to establish that the work performed pursuant to the Award was undervalued because of gender. The key points argued in the Queensland case were that the pay inequities were gender based because: y the work is seen as care work and care work is seen as extension of women s domestic role in the home and not properly valued; y there was a lack of Enterprise Agreements, with most workers employed under the Award (or minimum) rates; and y compared to the same or similar jobs in the public sector, local government and in other industries which do not predominantly employ women, the work was undervalued. After lengthy legal argument, in May 2009, we had huge success with wage increases of between 18 and 37% awarded to Queensland community sector workers; the biggest ever wage movement for the sector. The wages are being implemented over a 3 year period and State wage case decisions also apply. After months of collaborative campaigning the Qld government

substantially funded the decision, committing $414m to pay the increases. A massive victory and finally, some recognition for community sector workers who work at the coalface of need in our community. The ASU believes community sector workers around the country are not worth any less than Queensland community sector workers so we turned our minds to other states and territories, to how we could flow this decision onto other states. At the same time, the Federal Government indicated that it was very keen to have all community sector workers covered by the new federal legislation. This gave us an opportunity to negotiate the terms under which we would agree for all community sector workers to be referred to the federal system. We negotiated directly with office of then Deputy PM Julia Gillard resulting in the signing by the parties of the Heads of Agreement in 2009. The Heads of Agreement provides o support for pay equity case, including an agreed set of facts; o Use of the Qld principles NSW jurisprudence; o Resourcing and research; o Qld outcomes are protected; o Phase in of new rates; and o Broad recognition of the need for funding. With the Heads of Agreement in place, the Queensland precedent and s302 of the new Fair Work Act 2009 which allows application for equal remuneration orders, in March 2010 we launched our national Pay Equity case. It is, as we knew it would be, a huge, complex and difficult exercise. 16 cases have been run federally previously but none have been won. We do have new legislation and much support from organisations, various governments and of courses from workers themselves, but it is cumbersome, expensive and difficult but, as you ve heard, incredibly necessary. On 3 June 2010 we filed our submissions; these submissions are available for viewing on our website www.asu-sant.asn.au and all documents in the case are on the Fair Work Australia website www.fwa.gov.au .

Hundreds of statements were gathered from experts on pay equity and on the sector, from workers, from Union officials and from employers. Many other organisations also made submissions including State Governments, the Women s Electoral Lobby, various Councils of Social Services, employers, and employer groups. Inspections in workplaces around the country were organised and conducted in September last year for the Full Bench hearing the case and all the attendant legal representatives. Many of our members were witnesses and provided evidence both in writing and in person about the work they do. Most of the community employer groups are supportive or concerned mainly about cost or implementation; an issue for our campaign that we continue to work on together. The Australian Industry Group is the most comprehensive employer group in the case opposed to our application arguing in the first instance that the case is misconceived . Another AIG argument is that award rates are already properly fixed and changing rates in a whole sector via an equal remuneration order will distort the wage relativities. Revealingly, the AIG has also stated that it fears the flow-on impact of our case to other sectors dominated by women workers, such as those employed in childcare. An important campaign strategy has been to make the public aware of our case and to seek public support for state, territory and federal governments to fund any pay equity ruling that we achieve because without funding, our services will have to cut back on other things to fund the pay increases and we all know that would be robbing Penny to pay Pauline. We are very excited to be able to report that our strategy has met with a great deal of success and the past few months especially have been very heartening: In SA, on 10 June 2011 our State Treasurer Jack Snelling at rally on the steps of Parliament House, announced that the State Government will pay their share of the increases arising as an outcome of the ASU Pay Equity case. On 16 June 2011 the Full Bench of Fair Work Australia handed down an interim decision finding confirming that Community Sector workers are undervalued and under paid.

The Australian Federal Government subsequently announced that it will fund its share of the outcomes of the FWA Pay Equity Case. Conciliation conferences are now underway discussing the quantum and timing of pay increases, leading up to a final submissions from the parties, followed by a final decision from the Full Bench, probably late this year. But the struggle is far from over. Unfortunately, elections in some states (NSW, Vic) have seen conservative governments return to power and the previous state Labor Governments commitments to funding have been reversed. We are also still to receive a final commitment for funding from the NT government. We are sick of community sector workers being taken for granted and doing the work the government requires to be done at a minimum of 30% (and up to 69%) less than those same governments pay their own workers. We will campaign for as long as it takes for our representatives to respect the work carried out in this sector. We have recently turned out tens of thousands of community sector workers, employers and supporters around pay equity on our national days of community sector action. These events were widely and positively publicised by the media and supported by the broader community. We have presented petitions with tens of thousands of signatures to state, territory and federal governments. We have signed postcards to our Prime Minister; we have taken delegations of community sector workers to Canberra and we collected pledges from ALP members about their intentions in relation to funding the case s outcomes post its conclusion. We continue to grow Union membership and activate workers around their campaign across the country. It has not been easy and probably never is going to be easy but we say it is OUR time. It is OUR turn. This is the time when community sector work gets valued. This is when pay equity for women is finally turned around and achieved. This is an exciting point in our campaign for pay equity and it s vital that we continue to keep the energy going and the pressure on for a just decision.

Further submissions to FWA are scheduled for 24-26 October 2011 and we hope for a decision from the Full Bench by the end of this year. However, even once we have a decision and even after we have sorted out the wrinkles of program funding and implemented the wage increases involved, we will need to address the ongoing challenges (Maintenance of pay relativities, workforce development, OH&S) which confront the community sector in Australia. But what we do know is that by being active, strong and united, we CAN make a difference. Thank you.