Go-ahead for equal pay case
An equal pay case at The Age newspaper has been given the go ahead by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission and will now proceed on June 7. The Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU), supported by the ACTU, is seeking an equal remuneration order against The Age for its clerical employees (more than 200 employees). The union and the ACTU claim that women working as telephone sales advisors should receive the same pay as the men working as printers. They claim that both groups of workers have a comparatively equal level of skills. Telephone sales advisors, who sell, take and place advertisements in the paper, are required to have a high level of skill, acquired either through private training or on the job. They must type more than 50 words per minute, be competent at "push selling" and have the skills of a lay-out person as they are required to design and put the ad in themselves. Currently, the pay difference between the women telephonists and the male printers is more than $100 a week. The claim then calls for women telephonists with additional skills to be paid a higher rate, the same as for male printers. This is the second case testing the equal remuneration provisions of the Workplace Relations Act. The previous case, HPM in Sydney, was settled out of court, with HPM agreeing to pay female workers higher rates as it does male employees. The ACTU understands that representations have been made by The Age to Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith to intervene in the case. The Age tried to stop the proceedings by arguing before the Commission on technical and jurisdictional grounds; these arguments were rejected by the Commission. The Commission went ahead and issued a summons, as requested by the union, regarding the pay rates and job descriptions applicable to the clerical and printing jobs referred to in the application. The Age unsuccessfully objected to the disclosure of this information on various grounds, including that it was onerous to provide details for the past five years. The union/ACTU have flagged they will seek to have work value inspections of the relevant work undertaken as soon as possible. "We are delighted we can now proceed to have the merits of this case argued as we believe any objective assessment of the work will show a clear undervaluation of the clerical work because it is perceived to be `women's work'", said Jenny Doran, ACTU industrial officer.