The Guardian November 14, 2001


Bridging the gender gap

by Andrew Jackson

Gender equality is the issue at the heart of a strike action at a cardboard 
factory in the Sydney, where 80 men who were recently awarded a pay rise 
remain on strike in support of eight women co-workers who haven't seen an 
extra cent in three years.

"At Carter Holt Harvey, we believe our people  their knowledge and 
potential  are our key to success", says the company logo.

But it appears that rewarding those people for their efforts is another 
matter.

Eighty men who work on the factory floor were jubilant last week after 
winning a 14 per cent pay rise, but they vowed to continue industrial 
action because the company has refused to extend the offer its female 
employees.

Although working in the same factory, Carter Holt Harvey claims that 
because the eight women are office workers employed on open-ended staff 
contracts, they are not entitled for inclusion in the wage deal.

The women have not had a pay rise in three years.

Amanda Perkins, Secretary of the Printing Division of the Australian 
Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) said, "Forget the glass ceiling, this 
is about front-on feminism  it is about giving some recognition to these 
women for the work they do".

"The company is willing to give 14 per cent to the men but cannot find $1 
for the women."

The AMWU was forced to call a temporary pause in the strike last Friday 
after Carter Holt Harvey threatened the production workers with individual 
suits.

The union has since made a successful application for a protected action 
order from the Industrial Relations Commission.

At the same time the Commission recommended to Carter Holt Harvey that they 
return to the table and negotiate a deal on the women's pay.

Assistant Secretary of the AMWU Printing Division Matthew Lowe said the 
union has so far received no response to their calls.

The AMWU says the production workers will be back on strike as of 7am 
Thursday, and that the picket line at the factory reinstated.

Carter Holt Harvey is a timber and paper manufacturer with 10,800 employees 
across the South Pacific, and has recently been embroiled in a bitter 
industrial dispute at its base in New Zealand.

With a profit this financial year of $193 million it is one of New 
Zealand's biggest companies, and has attempted to use that corporate muscle 
in an effort to stop the NZ Government from ratifying the Kyoto Protocol on 
greenhouse gas emissions.

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