Hundreds of community workers and members of the social and community services (SACS) division of the Queensland Services Union (QSU) rallied on November 10 outside the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC).
The rally, attended by workers from Brisbane and the Sunshine and Gold Coasts, coincided with the first day of the union's historic pay equity case. The case aims to secure pay rises of between $15,000 and $18,000 per year for frontline workers in more than 2000 SACS organisations in Queensland.
The case, based on the state government's Equal Remuneration Principle, is seeking pay parity with public sector workers who do similar work for employees in the non-government SACS sector.
This pay claim follows the recent creation of a new state award for these employees. This new "common rule" award covers the vast majority of employees who are engaged by non-constitutional corporations, which remain outside the federal Work Choices legislation. This has provided SACS workers with greater security of entitlements, and they now enjoy the same award safeguards enjoyed by all other award workers.
QSU secretary David Smith said it is now time to set new wage rates for SACS workers to ensure they are remunerated in line with similar public sector workers. Smith called on the state government to ensure funding is sufficient to support the improvement in pay.
SACS funding comes from government departments and organisations such as the Legal Aid Commission.
The QIRC hearing is due to continue until November 14. Funding provisions for the wage rise will need to be made in the forthcoming state budget. Pressure will then be on the Australian Services Union (which the QSU is affiliated to) for wage flow-ons for SACS workers not covered by the state award.