Government backtracks on equal pay for low paid female workers

Australia’s community sector is disappointed that the Federal Government appears unwilling to accept responsibility for the routine underfunding of community services that has led to the significant pay disparity for Australia’s low paid workers in the community and disabilities sector.

“This wage claim before Fair Work Australia is about justice for community workers, around 85% of whom are women. While the Government previously recognised that paying women less for doing the same work is unjust, it seems to be making excuses for not fixing the problem,” said Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service.

“Yet the cost of not addressing this pay inequity will be felt in services that cannot continue because community organisations cannot attract and retain the vital staff they need. This is the price if we don’t achieve pay equity in this sector.

“ACOSS is concerned by the Commonwealth’s suggestion in its submission that funding a pay rise would likely come at the expense of other Government services. Community sector workers, who provide support to some of the most disadvantaged people, live on wages that will render them in need of the very services they provide, in their retirement.

“We think it is unreasonable and unfair to threaten other services at the cost of paying community sector workers decent wages.

“This is an attempt by the Government to distance itself from the responsibility for funding higher wages. It fails to acknowledge the key role that Australian governments have played in the growing gap in community sector wages through routine underfunding of this important sector.

“In this year’s ‘Study into the contribution of the not-for-profit sector’, the Productivity Commission found that governments have routinely paid only 70% of the cost of services that they have contracted to community organisations.

“We recognise that responsibility for government underfunding of the sector does not lie solely with the Commonwealth, all tiers of governments have contributed to this problem. However New South Wales, Victoria, and ACT have all come out in support of the case, with the Brumby Government going further to accept the funding implications.

“It is disappointing to see the Federal Government fall behind in an area in which they should be taking the lead, especially after its pronouncements prior to the last election to close the gender pay gap in Australia.”

Media Contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155

See ACOSS Analysis and Discussion Paper released today: