Historic Test Case Brings Wage Increases for Community Workers a Step Closer

4 November 2009

Community sector workers around the country are one step closer to higher wages following the announcement of a landmark pay equity test case in the new Fair Work system.

“ACOSS congratulates the Australian Services Union and Federal Government for setting in train a process to address the low wages of community sector workers,” said Clare Martin, CEO, Australian Council of Social Service.

“This announcement follows in the steps of a recent Queensland decision which lifted pay rates for SACS and CASH workers by 18% – 37%, to be implemented over three years, and sets a precedent for wage increases under national arrangements.”

The ruling also highlighted the discrepancies of wages paid to workers in different states. The ASU estimates community service workers in NSW are underpaid by up to $20,000 per year compared to workers in QLD.

“We strongly support the test case as a vital step towards long-awaited pay increases for community workers. Low wages have meant the community sector has long-battled workforce shortages and problems of attracting and retaining well-qualified staff.

“Decent wages are essential to a sustainable community services sector so that workers can deliver good community outcomes. ACOSS looks forward to supporting the process as it unfolds.

“Community workers provide vital services, often to the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in our communities – they are our nursing home assistants, workers in homeless shelters, counsellors of young people.”

This will be the first equal pay test case brought under Fair Work Australia. Dozens of Social and Community Sector Awards industry awards could be rolled into a single federal award.

Media contact: Clare Cameron, ACOSS – 0419 626 155