On a 35-degree day, community services workers in not-for-profit organisations mobilised from across Victoria to call for equal pay. The Australian Services Union, which covers the workers, estimated almost 4000 people rallied.
The protest marched to the steps of the state parliament house. They called on the John Brumby Labor government to fund the sector properly.
Australian Council of Trade Unions industrial officer Cath Bowtell told the workers: "It isn't enough just to win the case in Fair Work Australia [the federal government body that makes legal rulings on industrial disputes]. We have to battle for the funding."
She said state and federal Labor governments had adopted a funding model that asks more of community services workers for no extra pay, which "pays 30% less than you'd get in the private sector".
Shane, from the Latrobe Valley, said he had been a youth worker for six years, and before that had worked for 30 years in the construction industry. He said despite all of his training, he gets less now than he did in the early 1980s in the construction industry. "Our wage is $16,000 less than the average take-home wage", he said.
A delegates and activists meeting on December 10 will discuss the next stage of the campaign.