More than a 1,000 early childhood educators went on strike from 3.20 pm on March 8, International Women’s Day (IWD). Why 3.20 pm? It is the time women in Australia effectively start working for free because of the persistent gender pay imbalance. Striking on IWD aimed to draw attention to the large pay gap between male and female dominated professions. United Voice union assistant national secretary Helen Gibbons said educators were walking off the job on IWD to tell Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull it’s time he valued their work by funding equal pay for educators. United Voice says that despite the vital importance of their work educating Australia’s children many early childhood educators earn just $20 an hour – half the average national wage. It was heartening to note that the strike action was supported by kids’ parents – they certainly appreciate the excellent work early educators do.
Recent heat waves drew more attention than ever on the impacts of global warming on health. A group of leading scientists questions the funding (or lack of it) into research into climate change impacts on health. Research into global warming’s health impacts is starved of funding. “In 2016, none of the 516 funded project grants, totalling $420 million, included a climate change or heat wave focus,” according to the paper published in Nature Climate Change. People are dying in extreme conditions and public health warnings only advise stay indoors and drink plenty of water. There has to be more than that and proper research is absolutely vital. Many countries are making progress in that regard and sharing ideas. A US government study in 2016 identified such research priorities as temperature-related death and illness; air quality impacts; impacts of extreme events on human health; vector-borne diseases; impacts on water-related illness; food safety; nutrition and distribution; mental health and well-being. Dealing with even this short list will require multi-disciplinary efforts, clear vision and proper funding, not to mention a political will.
International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrations this year have been defiant and militant. One of the leading unions in Australia, Australian Services Union (ASU) has been drawing attention to the federal government’s decision to put the #1800RESPECT counselling service for victims of sexual violence up for tender. The counselling service provides crisis assistance to victims of all ages and genders, although women are both its biggest user group and the vast majority of counsellors are women, and union members. The ASU is strongly opposed to the privatisation of services and say: “NO PROFIT FROM RAPE!”