Equal pay campaign wins

By Megan Clement-Couzner 

The Australian Services Union has been leading the charge on a multi-union campaign to change the way that community work is valued. They’ve recently had a major win in Australia’s industrial court, Fair Work Australia (FWA), and with the Federal Government, who have agreed to fund their share of the cost of the case.

On the 1st of February, Fair Work Australia released their decision to award pay increases of 19-41 per cent to the sector. 

Check out the Equal Remuneration Case at the FWA site.

So why is this important for women? Well, it’s important for everyone. But the fact is that eighty seven percent of community workers are women, and women and children are the major beneficiaries of community services.

The union activists and officials have been running the nation-wide ‘pay up’ campaign since 2010, which claims that work in the industry is low paid because it is a female-dominated sector with a history of volunteerism.

Check out the Pay Up site site.

Their application to FWA argued that the work done in the sector deserved a pay increase to bring community workers – disability carers, refuge workers, community campaigners and advocates – into line with the wages of public sector employees doing similar work. 

Nowhere was the campaign more active than in Sydney, where there has been workplace organising, meetings with politicians, postcards to PM Gillard, equal pay pledges and rallies, and even dancing in the street.  

Some of the active groups involved in the campaign included ACOSS and NCOSS, the women’s organisations http://welnsw.org.au/2011/07/25/womens-organisations-support-underpaid-community-workers/, and many of the organisations employing people in the sector. Lots of community organisations, for example women’s refuges, have a history of both feminism and activism – you’ll be able to read more about some of these in the coming weeks. 

Lisa Smajlov has been an activist in the case. She is a community development co-ordinator at Rozelle Neighbourhood Centre, and when she made a career change from IT to the community sector “that was when I realised that feminised work means low pay.” 

“The work I do is so much more valuable than updating websites, but when I was in IT ten years ago I earned triple what I make now.”

Lisa has been active in the campaign because the decision by FWA will mean a pay increase of $10-12,000 a year. This means she won’t be living day to day.

Now that the decision has come out and the federal government has committed, NSW government funding is one of the last pieces of the puzzle. So far they have refused to commit.

If you are a community worker, you can support the campaign for equal pay by joining the ASU here . Follow the campaign for future actions here

*Quotes from Lisa Smajlov were first published on The Punch

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  1. […] We got off the ground today and you can find the first post, about the ASU campaign win, here. […]

  2. […] the wins of the feminist movement. And there have been some good ones. Most recently, the ASU’s historic equal pay case. But IWD also reminds us to pause and reflect on where we are now and where we are headed. This is […]



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