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.