The Guardian June 2, 1999

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.

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