Community Sector Wages Group Announced as Pay Equity Decision Approaches
4 March 2011 at 4:42 pm
The Gillard Government is to set up a national consultative group to assess the potential implications of pay increases for community sector workers across the country.
The Australian Services Union and 4 other unions made an application for an equal remuneration order with Fair Work Australia in March 2011, calling for a wage-increase for the predominantly female community sector workforce.
Making the announcement, Minister for Workplace Relations, Senator Chris Evans says the ‘Community Sector Wages Group’ will see employers, unions and the federal, state and territory governments working together to assess the potential implications of pay increases which can result from the test case being brought by the ASU.
Evans says the Gillard Government is serious about equal pay and this is the next important step in closing the gender pay gap in Australia.
Parliamentary Secretary for Workplace Relations, Senator Jacinta Collins, says the Government is keen to work with community services stakeholders on the complex funding arrangements in the sector.
Collins says women shouldn’t be paid on average 17 per cent less than men in 2011. She says this is why the Government has put in place fair work laws that allow cases like this to be heard by the independent umpire. She says the independent umpire will make the final decision but the fair work laws make this case possible.
The group will be chaired by Senator Jacinta Collins, and will include representatives from ACOSS, the social and community sector, the ASU and other unions, and state territory governments.
Peak welfare body ACOSS has welcomed the announcement, with CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie saying it is a positive move by the Government as the process of implementation will be as important as the principle of equal pay itself.
Goldie says the outcome ACOSS is looking to achieve is full funding by all governments, but how they get to that point is an important question and this process will work towards the answer.
She says a decision to increase the award rates of pay in the sector will only be effective when the funding that delivers these vital services is increased to ensure decent pay for these workers.
Goldie says as a representative body, the Group will enable the views of stakeholders to be reflected in the decision-making process.
She says ACOSS will seek to work through the Group to ensure that the diversity of the sector is reflected and this diversity will have a particular impact on how services are effected by Fair Work’s decision, which will vary depending on whether services are delivered by small, medium or large organisations, where they are located, how they are designed, and their reliance on volunteer or paid staff.
The claim before Fair Work Australia is approaching its conclusion after being lodged in March 2010 by the ASU and other unions.
Since late January this year, two weeks of hearings were held in a number of locations to allow witnesses from all over Australia to give evidence before the tribunal, and members of the Fair Work tribunal hearing the case have visited public sector workplaces to see how they compare to that in the non-government sector.
Governments, employer groups and others must file their final written submissions over the next month, with final oral submissions to be heard in Melbourne on the 11th and 12th of April before the tribunal considers its verdict.
According to the ASU, the union case now relies on 130 formal "exhibits" consisting of 76 witness statements and 54 other documents tendered in support, plus written submissions. The tribunal has sat on 13 days to consider the case and the transcript occupies 5760 paragraphs already. In addition the tribunal members visited 25 workplaces in four states over a further 13 days to see the work and talk to the workers involved in performing
View the unions' final submission to the Fair Work Tribunal here http://www.fwa.gov.au/sites/remuneration/submissions/ASU_Submission_28-Feb-2011.pdf