Wages tribunal attacks community services in the name of "equality"

Why not pay everyone exactly the same wage? That's where the logic (or illogic) leads.

The Federal government has promised funding to help pay the bigger wages bill but that will get mired in the bureaucracy. There is no doubt some organizations will have to put off staff to make ends meet

ALMOST 150,000 community sector workers, mostly women, have been awarded a pay rise by the industrial umpire in a landmark test case. Fair Work Australia granted an equal remuneration order sought by several unions, including the Australian Services Union, which was supported by the Federal Government.

The industrial workplace relations tribunal said the pay increases should be phased in over eight years rather than six. The pay boosts will range from 19 to 41 per cent, equating to wage rises of between $6324 and $24,346.

Australia Services Union (ASU) Sally McManus welcomed the decision as a huge win, not just for the community sector, but for equal pay in Australia. “We’re happy, in fact we’re ecstatic,” she said. “We’re hoping this decision will go towards putting a dent in the 18 per cent pay gap between men and women in Australia.”

The ASU said they were disappointed the pay increase will be phased in over eight years rather than the six years originally sought.

The Fair Work decision comes after the Federal Government appealed to the industrial tribunal in November for pay rises in the community sector which would be backed by a $2 billion funding commitment.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said at the time community sector workers, who are mostly women, were underpaid and it was time they got equal pay for their work.

About 120,000 of the sector’s 150,000 workers are women and employees mostly work in social services, welfare and the caring professions.

Big employers in the area include Mission Australia, Amnesty International, Oxfam, The Catholic Church and Greenpeace.

Ms McManus said they will now be calling on the state governments to join in and support the pay rises.

The majority of the full bench of Fair Work Australia said they decided any equal remuneration order made should be based on the wages in the modern award. "The proposals in the joint submission are consistent with that requirement," FWA said.

"Importantly, the percentage additions to the modern award wages, as varied from time to time in annual wage reviews, will provide an ongoing remedy for the part gender has played in inhibiting wages growth in the SACS (social, community and disability services) industry."

The increases at each wage level and the further four per cent loading will be introduced in nine instalments annually on December 1 between 2012 and 2020.

FWA vice president Graeme Watson disagreed with his colleagues, saying the wage claim did not stand up to scrutiny.

During the hearing, the Victorian Government made a submission warning of potential cuts to jobs and services if the wage rise cost more than $200 million over four years.


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