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Government Backdown on Community Sector Pay Equity

Monday, 22nd November 2010 at 11:37 am
Staff Reporter
Community organisations and the Greens have accused the Gillard Government of breaking its election promise to the sector by backing down on pay equity for the predominantly female community sector workforce.

Monday, 22nd November 2010
at 11:37 am
Staff Reporter



Government Backdown on Community Sector Pay Equity
Monday, 22nd November 2010 at 11:37 am

Community organisations and the Greens have accused the Gillard Government of breaking its election promise to the sector by backing down on pay equity for the predominantly female community sector workforce.

The Not for Profit sector has reacted angrily to the Federal Government’s submission to Fair Work Australia (FWA) in relation to the Australian Services Union’s Equal Remuneration Wage case for social and community service (SACS) workers.

The case is seen as a test case on pay equity for the predominantly female community sector workforce.

Photo : Some rights reserved by Australian Services Union, NSW & ACT

In their 123 page submission to the Fair Work Commission, the Gillard Government urged the commission to note the implications that a considerable wage increase may have on SACS services and the broader economy.

The submission warns FWA that the potential cost to the Commonwealth of significant wage increases in the SACS sector could be considerable. It says if any additional Government funding is provided, it would likely come at the expense of other Government funded services.

The Federal Government blamed a combination of high levels of award reliance and below average bargaining for contributing to the low wages of the SACS sector.

The submission encourages SACS service providers, their employees and relevant unions to bargain collectively at the enterprise level on improvements in pay and conditions and employment and productivity.

The Government argues that increasing wages to the SACS sector will impose greater pressure on organisations delivering SACS services which will have an effect on service delivery standards in the sector.

The Greens have expressed dissapointment at the Government's stance. Greens Community Services Senator Rachel Siewert says the Government relies on the community sector to deliver the support that the Government should itself be delivering.

Senator Siewert says the there must be action to ensure that appropriate wages are paid for these essential services.

The Australian Council of Social Services says the Government appears unwilling to accept responsibility for the routine underfunding of community services that has led to the significant pay disparity for Australia’s low paid workers in the community and disabilities sector.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie says the wage claim before Fair Work Australia is about justice for community sector workers, around 85% of whom are women. Goldie says that while the Government previously recognised that paying women less for doing the same work is unjust, it seems to be making excuses for not fixing the problem.

Goldie says it is unreasonable and unfair for the Government to threaten other services at the cost of paying community sector workers decent wages.

Community Employers WA says the Government’s submission to Fair Work Australia has made clear that it will not fund any increase in salaries that are awarded by Fair Work Australia in this Case.

Community Employers WA claim the Gillard Government has broken its election promise to the community sector and is in danger of seriously jeopardising the future of vital community services to at disadvantage in the community.

James Lawton, Community Employers WA Executive Director says the Government’s position represents a disaster in the making.

Lawton says not only has the Gillard Government failed to keep its promise to the community sector in the build up to the Election, it has laughably suggested that any increase in salaries could be made by making efficiencies in operating services or through enterprise bargaining.

In the lead up to the August Federal Election ALP Senator Ursula Stephens, on behalf of Jenny Macklin, responded to salary and funding issues raised by Community Employers WA by stating the ALP “believe the community sector plays a vital role in delivering services to the most vulnerable in our community and it is important that it has the resources to do this job”.

The ALP went on to say that “this is why the Gillard Labor Government has committed to working through the funding implications of any increase in wages awarded as a result of this case cooperatively, in consultation with the States as well as the affected unions and employers.”

James Lawton says the Government has failed to do this and are now seriously in danger of derailing this whole process to address unfair and unjust salaries for workers in the community sector.

Family Relationship Services Australia (FRSA) joined the voices expressing dismay at the Government’s position.

FRSA Executive Director Samantha Page labelled the Government’s submission short sighted, saying that the Government’s failure to address wage equity in the community services sector will put all government funded programs in jeopardy over the long term.

Page says it will not be long before community organisations will not be able to maintain an appropriately qualified workforce to deliver services that support the most vulnerable in the community.

Page says FRSA believed the Gillard Government was committed in principle to gender equity and appropriate value for the work undertaken in social and community services. She says during the election campaign there was a clear statement of support for the wage case and acknowledgement that this would necessitate a review of Federal Government funding, this is clearly not reflected in the Government’s submission the Fair Work Australia.

View the Government's submission to the Fair Work Commission here.

ACOSS is organising an equal pay campaign – click here to visit the Equal Pay campaign page and sign the petition.

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