Community workers march for pay equity

ASU rally, Brisbane, June 10. Photo: lookingleft/Flickr

Tens of thousands rallied around Australia on June 10 in support of the Australian Services Union’s (ASU) pay equity test case for community sector workers.

The ASU has opened a test case with Fair Work Australia under the equal remuneration power of the Fair Work Act. The ASU claim is for pay rises of about 25% for community sector workers. It follows a successful application in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission last year.

This would mean an average weekly increase of $100 for the 200,000 people who work in women’s refuges and help new migrants, the homeless and those with drug and alcohol problems.

The Brisbane rally was attended by a number of unions, indicating the breadth of support for the ASU campaign.

A very noisy and spirited march snaked through the CBD to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s office, where a petition was presented. The PM’s representative called for votes for the ALP in the upcoming election, warning against the possibility of an Abbott-led government.

The rally demanded that now was the time for the government to act on pay equity — it should not be relegated to a mere election “promise”.

In her speech to the Brisbane rally, Queensland ASU assistant secretary Jenny Thomas served notice on the Rudd government that if there was not commitment to funding for wage justice for community workers, another national day of action will take place on November 11.

The Melbourne rally was attended by up to 8000. It involved the key unions behind the claim — the ASU, Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union and Health and Community Services Union. A wide range of other unions and individuals also attended, including many clients of community services.