Court says yes to equal pay, but fight not over

For details of rallies in other cities visit http://asumembers.org.au/sacs

In a decision handed down on May 16, Fair Work Australia (FWA) acknowledged the gender-based undervaluation of the vital work of social and community sector (SACS) workers.

This is a preliminary decision in the historic equal remuneration case led by the Australian Services Union (ASU).

The case was launched in March 2010 and followed a successful pay equity case in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) in 2009.

See also:
Women workers are sick of waiting: equal pay now

The QIRC recognised that SACS work had been historically undervalued as it was seen as caring work and an extension of women’s work in the home, and awarded pay increases of between 17% and 38% to rectify this gender inequity.

More than 30 years after "equal pay for work of equal value" was formally achieved in Australia, overall women’s wages are still two-thirds of male wages because of Australia’s gender segregated workforce.

The SACS industry has a highly feminised workforce: 87% are women. Wages are as low as 50% of those doing similar jobs in local, state and federal government positions.

The interim decision by FWA “concluded that for employees in the SACS industry there is not equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal or comparable value by comparison with workers in state and local government employment.

“We consider gender has been important in creating the gap between pay in the SACS industry and pay in comparable state and local government employment.”

FWA however considered that simply adopting the Queensland pay rate was not “appropriate” and is calling for further submissions from the ASU and the federal government.

The applicant unions are to file written submissions by June 10 and the government is to file by June 30. Other interested parties have until July 21. Full bench hearings on the case are scheduled for August 8, 9 and 10.

ASU national delegate of the year Margaret Gleeson told Green Left Weekly: “I think that we should consider this interim decision an historic victory for the rights of women workers in Australia.



“However it would be a very hollow victory indeed if it could not be realized because of state and commonwealth governments lack of commitment to funding."

Most workers in the SACS industry provide services that are funded under federal and state government programs. The employers (small and large not-for-profit community organisations and church-based charities) often have little or no independent income stream to cover wages.

“Julia Gillard is on record as supporting pay equity but has not committed to funding the outcomes of the FWA case,” said Gleeson. “In fact, in arguing its case the commonwealth has raised the issue of the impact of SACS increase funding on the budget surplus.

“The 2011-2012 Commonwealth budget made no provision for wage increases in the community sector which may result from the ASU’s equal remuneration case or for the existing Queensland pay equity decision.

“No increased funding will mean cuts in services to the poorest and most disaffected in the community as well as reduction in working hours and redundancies across the workforce.

“There is already a staffing crisis in the sector, reflected in high staff turnovers and an aging workforce. Without increased funding this will lead to a deskilling of what is now a highly trained workforce, as employers downgrade jobs to balance their books.”

A national day of action has been called for Wednesday June 8 to call for full funding for pay equity by state and federal governments. Events will be held in all capitals and in regional centres.

[Visit http://asumembers.org.au/sacs/ for more details.]

Comments

In the U.S., no legislation yet has closed the gender wage gap — not the 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, not the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act, not the 1991 amendments to Title VII, not affirmative action (which has benefited mostly white women, the group most vocal about the wage gap), not diversity, not the countless state and local laws and regulations, not the horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, not the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.... Nor will a "paycheck fairness" law work.

That's because pay-equity advocates, at no small financial cost to taxpayers and the economy, continue to overlook the effects of this female AND male behavior:

Despite the 40-year-old demand for women's equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of "The Secrets of Happily Married Women," stay-at-home wives, including the childless who represent an estimated 10 percent, constitute a growing niche. "In the past few years,” he says in a CNN report at http://tinyurl.com/6reowj, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (“Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier....” at http://tinyurl.com/qqkaka. If indeed more women are staying at home, perhaps it's because feminists and the media have told women for years that female workers are paid less than men in the same jobs — so why bother working if they're going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman.)

As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Because they're supported by their husband, an “employer” who pays them to stay at home.

Both feminists and the media ignore what this obviously implies: If millions of wives are able to accept no wages and live as well as their husbands, millions of other wives are able to accept low wages, refuse overtime and promotions, work part-time instead of full-time (“According to a 2009 UK study by Cristina Odone for the Centre for Policy Studies, only 12 per cent of the 4,690 women surveyed wanted to work full time.” http://bit.ly/ihc0tl), take more unpaid days off, avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining (http://tinyurl.com/45ecy7p) — all of which lower women's average pay. They are able to make these choices because they are supported, or anticipate being supported, by a husband who must earn more than if he'd chosen never to marry. (Still, even many men who shun marriage, unlike women, feel their self worth is tied to their net worth.) This is how MEN help create the wage gap. If the roles were reversed so that men raised the children and women raised the income, men would average lower pay than women.

See “A Response to the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act” at http://tinyurl.com/pvbrcu

See also "Why Women Earn Less" at http://tinyurl.com/3ped7tb

Anonymous makes an argument based on traditional, functionalist, heteronormative ideology, which does not represent most women, not even close. Whoever is moderating here, why is a link to Warren Farrell allowed to remain under an article about women's fight for equality?

There is a difference between the two.

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