Historic victory for working women
by Andrew Jackson "Today is a historic day for women in NSW and indeed, a very historic day for the trade union movement", announced Maurie O'Sullivan of the Public Service Association (PSA), as Librarians and Archivists won an "equal pay for work of equal value" case before the NSW Industrial Relations Commission (IRC). In some instances, this ruling will mean pay increases of up to 92 per cent. "Today the PSA has struck a blow for social justice, for industrial justice and for gender justice. I am so proud of my Trade Union", Mr O'Sullivan said jubilantly "Across the Public Sector in NSW, women's salaries overall average out at around 69 per cent of male earnings. The PSA is striving to redress this imbalance and (this) court case will be a major step forward in righting a social wrong and a gender wrong." The full-bench IRC decision, the first handed down under NSW's "Equal Remuneration Principle", awarded the workers all their claims, including: * substantial pay rises for Librarians, Library Technicians and Archivists of up to 26 per cent; * the abolition of aged related entry-level salaries for Library Technicians, resulting in a salary increase of up to 92 per cent for the youngest workers; * a single award with descriptors at each level and better career paths for workers; and * recognition of the professionalism of Librarians and Archivists, placing them on par with legal officers and engineers. The Full Bench found that not only had the responsibilities of these workers been historically undervalued but also there had been significant increases in the last decade or so in the demands and the skill and the output of these employees. "We now have a mechanism for measuring the real value of work done predominantly by women. "Have no doubt about it that had there been a majority of men employed in libraries over the years, the salaries would have been much higher", said Mr O'Sullivan. This decision in favour of librarians sets a precedent for workers in other women dominated occupations, such as nurses, who waged a bitter campaign against an indifferent NSW Labor Government in 2001. The "What's a nurse worth?" campaign culminated in state-wide action, including mass walk-outs, by 210 union branches as the Carr Government took a hostile stance towards the nurses. It refused a NSW Nurses Association (NSWNA) request for an urgent hearing before the NSW IRC to assess claims aimed at improving nurses' wages and conditions. In NSW, Registered General Nurses earns $70 a week less than physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech pathologists, and $100 per week less than other allied health professionals such as dieticians, social workers, and medical technologists. This wage discrimination against nurses is ludicrous given that qualification in each of these professions requires the same amount of study (and in many of the exact same subjects), yet nurses are the ones who are actively saving lives on a minute-by-minute basis. The NSWNA is claiming that nurses will need an immediate 15 per cent wage increase to redress this imbalance, and the introduction of qualifications allowances and retention allowances. Their application to the IRC was lodged on October 17 when the State Government finally relented, and they expect their case to be heard in June this year.