Brisbane workers demand pay equity

More than 500 community services workers rallied in Nundah Memorial Park near the electorate office of federal Treasurer Wayne Swan on June 8. It was part of a national day of action calling for full government funding for fair wages for community Services workers.

Marg Gleeson, who works at Brisbane Community Housing and was named Australian Services Union (ASU) state and national delegate of 2010, told the rally the recent victory in Fair Work Australia recognising in principle that community services workers were systematically underpaid, was “a tribute to the leadership and members of the ASU”.

“We now want this translated into full funding, without cuts in jobs and services,” she said.

“Governments have been standing on our shoulders for generations,” relying on the low-paid efforts of community service workers to assist the disadvantaged in society.

“Governments should support social justice, not war and a carbon-based economy. We don’t want full funding to be at the expense of housing, schools and hospitals.

“Now is the time to reinvigorate the national campaign for full funding, in the interests of community service workers and their clients.”

Outgoing president of the Queensland Council of Social Service Jill Laing told the crowd: “We don’t want just band aids. The fight is still not over. Full funding is critical to our cause.”

Greens Senator-elect for Queensland Larissa Waters, who is an ASU member in the Environmental Defender’s Office, warned that when pay equity was won in Queensland, cuts were made in EDO jobs.

“We don't want to see cuts in services," she said. "There are more than 200,000 workers in the community sector. We need to value supporting the poor and homeless over the budget bottom line."

ASU state secretary Kath Nelson said, “Last year in Brisbane we had the biggest pay equity rally since the 1970s. Together, we are leading the way for the national campaign. There is still a lot of work to be done. We need to continue the fight for decent wages.”

She said, to boos from the crowd, that Wayne Swan had declined several invitations to attend the rally.