The sweetest day for 150,000 community sector workers

Posted on Nov 10, 2011 03:12 PM |

The sweetest day for 150,000 community sector workers

The Australian Services Union has won an historic pay rise for workers in community jobs

About 150,000 community sector workers will be celebrating today, after the Gillard Government's historic announcement that it would fund pay rises of between 19 and 42 per cent for those doing community jobs.

It's been over two years since the Australian Services Union first launched it's test case for pay equity for more than 150,000 workers in community sector jobs.  In May, the Fair Work Australia tribunal upheld the ASU's claim that workers in social work, youth work, disability jobs and other social and community jobs are paid less, largely because most of them are women.

In a speech today to community workers in Sydney, Prime Minister Gillard said "it is time you got equal pay", and committed $2 billion to closing this pay gap:

"More than three-quarters of you are women. Nearly two-thirds of you have an industry qualification compared to just over half in other industries," she said.

"But your average full-time wage is just over $46,000 per year compared to around $58,000 for all working Australians.

"[There is] a gender-driven pay gap which sees, for example, a disability support worker with a tertiary qualification who supervises five staff get paid less than $38,000 a year.

"You have above-average qualifications, you get below-average pay."

The $2 billion commitment will be phased on over 6 years, and will increase salaries for workers in the sector by on average 20 per cent, or around $12,000 a year to bring their pay into line with wages in other sectors, and with the pay rises awarded to Queensland community workers in 2009 in their Equal Pay Case.

ASU Assistant National Secretary Linda White applauded the announcement:

"Today the Prime Minister recognises community workers' long struggle to have their work given the value it deserves and their right to be paid fair and reasonable wages.Prime Minister Gillard has shown she doesn't just talk about supporting equal pay for women, she acts on it."

The Australian Council of Social Service – the peak body for Australia's community sector - hailed the announcement as a "breakthrough":

"We congratulate the Prime Minister and Government on this important announcement as a welcome step towards securing equal pay for the workforce that is so vital to providing effective community services across Australia," said Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS.

"Millions of people in this country living with mental illness, drug and alcohol problems, insecure housing or homelessness and domestic violence seek the support of community services every day. . . . The announcement of a joint commitment on pay rates and that the Commonwealth will fully fund its fair share of higher wage costs is a significant breakthrough, as is the Commonwealth's commitment to work with states and territories towards their share of funding."

EthicalJobs.com.au would like to join with these organisations in celebrating this fantastic achievement for more than 150,000 workers in community jobs around the country.  We know that this reform will significantly improve the lives of some of the most important but under-recognised workers in Australia.  It will also immeasurably help community organisations, large and small, to attract more and better-qualified candidates to all sorts of jobs in the community and social sector.

Onya Prime Minister!

Update: You can now read the full text of the Prime Minister's announcement on equal pay here.