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One Step Closer: Pay Equity for an Ethical Sector

Last week Melbourne’s Age newspaper reported that:

“Forty years after Australian women won the right to equal pay, the
Rudd Government will back a major test case seeking hefty pay rises for
200,000 mostly female workers in the community sector
.” The Age, 5 Nov 2009

That’s not only great news for everyone employed in the sector (and ethical job-seekers who are hoping to work in the sector), but the fact that the Australian Services Union’s (ASU) test case for pay equity for the community sector also has support of the federal government is a huge step towards recognition of the valuable contribution the sector makes to Australian society.

The Industrial Relations Act 1999 (IRA) defines Pay Equity as “equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal or comparable worth.” The test case centres around the pay discrepancy between the community services sector’s workforce, which is made up of around 87% women, and equivalent positions in other sectors.

The Productivity Commission’s draft research report on the Contribution of the Not-for-Profit Sector estimates that the sector contributes over $43 billion to Australia’s GDP, and yet the workers in this sector can earn anywhere between $10,000 – 15,000 per annum less than their public sector counterparts. If this move by the ASU is successful it could change the way Australian society values work in ethical industries.

This case brings to light a number of questions around the way that we as a society value caring and ethical employment. Should workers have to take a pay cut to work in an area they are passionate about? Should ethical industries be considered of less worth than others? Have you moved into the community sector and taken a pay cut?


A great letter to the editor in the Age, by Gerard Cameron:

Lack of respect to those needed most

ON TUESDAY, up to 4000 non-government community services workers
marched on Parliament House. They were angry and made a lot of noise,
yet they remained extremely respectful, because they are caring souls… Read more here

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