Thursday, June 2, 2011

Community service workers in Australia win equal pay case

AN equal pay victory for community service workers means it's time for NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell to "pay up", the Australian Services Union (ASU) says.

Perth Now
June 3, 2011
ASU Rally pamphlet HERE.

Fair Work Australia on Monday ruled community service workers employed by non-government organisations (NGOs) are paid less than their counterparts in the public sector.

It also acknowledged that the industry is populated by mostly women.

The ASU's NSW secretary, Sally McManus, said the state government should honour the tribunal's ruling by funding wage increases.

"It's time to pay up," Ms McManus told reporters in Sydney. "No more lip service to equal pay. We have suffered on our low wages for too long."

The unions will ask for at least a 30 per cent pay increase to existing NGO salaries.

"In my view, we're going to be asking for probably higher wages," Ms McManus said. "But what we would like is actually a 30 per cent pay rise."

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Monday's ruling stopped short of determining what pay increases NGO workers should receive and dismissed a suggestion by the unions that any increase should be modelled after a previous equal pay case in Queensland.

The Fair Work tribunal also called for submissions from unions and state and federal governments to justify specific pay increases and how they should be phased in over an expected five-year period.

Ms McManus said she would prefer to sit down with the new state government to negotiate pay rises before making a submission to the tribunal.

"We had a fair bit of support from the (Labor) government here in New South Wales until there was a change of government," she said.

"Now they're arguing against any pay rise.

"So we expect there's going to be quite a battle on our hands to get these new rates of pay funding."

In the NSW government's submission to the equal pay case, it estimated that the increases to NGO wages could cost the budget $998 million.

Unions NSW secretary Mark Lennon warned the tribunal's decision would trigger additional wage cases.

"I can see now there's an opportunity for other cases to be brought forward," he said.

"They now have to step up to the mark and provide the funds to allow these pay rises to take place."

Speaking ahead of the ruling, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the case was only made possible because Labor had dismantled the Howard government's Work Choices regime.

"There was no effective way ... for people whose occupations had been historically undervalued, dismissed as women's work, to get anything that looked like pay equity,'' she told reporters in Sydney.

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