Community Sector Wage Hearings Underway
2 February 2011 at 9:39 am
Hearings before Fair Work Australia have begun to decide on wage-claims made on behalf of the 200,000 strong community sector workforce.
Hearings in the the Australian Services Union’s Equal Remuneration Wage case for social and community service (SACS) workers have begun before the full bench of Fair Work Australia.
According to the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), the hearings are an opportunity for the evidence to be presented of the level of undervaluing of these community sector workers.
ACOSS says the hearings will enable community sector workers to explain about the important work they do and the poor levels of pay they receive in a significant test case before Fair Work Australia.
ACOSS CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie says they know the pay gap between community sector workers and those doing equal or comparable work is irrefutable. And with 85% of the community sector workforce women, this constitutes a significant gender pay gap.
Goldie says responsibility for this pay gap is widespread and includes the many sources of funding that go to the community sector.
She says governments have increasingly outsourced their social services to community organisations, so too they should be at the forefront of funders acknowledging the extent of the problem and their responsibility in helping to address it.
She says a body of evidence, including the ACOSS Australian Community Sector Survey, has long revealed that capacity to attract and retain workers is the single biggest industrial issue facing community organisations.
Hearings in the case are expected to run for two to three weeks, with final hearings to be held in April.
Pro Bono Australia reported in November on the Not for Profit sector’s angry response to the Gillard Government’s backdown on equal pay for community sector workers.
The case is seen as a test case on pay equity for the predominantly female community sector workforce.
The Australian Services Union wants pay rises of between 14 and 50 per cent for the 200,000 strong workforce, of which 87% are female.
In November, the Gillard Government made their submission to Fair Work Australia (FWA) in relation to the pay equity case.
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 warned 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.
ACOSS is organising an equal pay campaign – click here to visit the Equal Pay campaign page and sign the petition.