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Issue #1493      16 March 2011

Unions push to bridge gender pay gap

Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) men and women joined the march from the Sydney Town Hall through the streets under the banner Women Transporting the World.

The call for the rally was equal pay, fair pay. Women should get the same pay as men, not just for the same work, but for women’s work like caring for the elderly, the ill, the young, cleaning and factory work.

A nurse has as many qualifications as a tradesmen, said one speaker, but all the tradesmen I know own a house at 20 and nurses go without.

It’s not about the glass ceiling but the gender pay gap of a whopping 18 percent – greater if the division is made along both gender and ethnic lines.

Speakers representing the ethnic communities spoke of how women laboured in factories on low pay in third world conditions.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions is redoubling efforts to achieve true gender equality with a test case now before the commission.

In the past year unions have campaigned and won paid and parental leave, carer’s leave and family-friendly flexible working arrangements.

But ACTU President Ged Kearney said a continuous effort and commitment was needed to achieve gender equity.

Unions launched an equal pay test case for around 150,000 social and community service workers in Fair Work Australia in early 2010 to redress the pay discrepancy.

She called for employers to face stronger enforcement of equal opportunity laws.

The recent announcement of government reform of Australia’s equal opportunity workplace laws after decades of inaction is welcomed by unions.

“Employers have had several decades to deliver equal opportunity in workplaces but have failed to do it, so it’s now time for legislative enforcement,” Ms Kearney said.

“We are pleased that the federal government is acting on recommendations made by unions to make reforms to the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act.

“Equality in the workplace needs to be backed by accountability and enforcement.”  

Next article – WA to rally for local jobs

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