ACOSS welcomes equal pay hearings as opportunity to hear voice of undervalued community workers

The Australian Council of Social Service welcomes the start of hearings today in the landmark equal remuneration case for social and community sector and disability workers across Australia, adding that it will provide an opportunity for the overwhelming evidence to be presented of the level of undervaluing of these vital workers.

The evidence before Fair Work Australia will enable community sector workers to explain about the important work they do and the poor levels of pay they receive in a significant test case brought about by the Australian Services Union, and fully supported by ACOSS as the peak body for the sector.

“We know the pay gap between community sector workers and those doing equal or comparable work is irrefutable. And with 85% of the community sector workforce women, this constitutes a significant gender pay gap,” said ACOS CEO, Dr Cassandra Goldie.

“Responsibility for this pay gap is widespread and includes the many sources of funding that go to the community sector. As governments have increasingly outsourced their social services to community organisations, so too they should be at the forefront of funders acknowledging the extent of the problem and their responsibility in helping to address it.

“A body of evidence, including the ACOSS Australian Community Sector Survey, has long revealed that capacity to attract and retain workers is the single biggest industrial issue facing community organisations.

“Governments and other community sector funders have to step up to the plate and assume responsibility for this pay gap, as well as the implications for the sustainability of the crucial services that they fund if the pay gap is not corrected.

“The equal remuneration application currently before Fair Work Australia presents an opportunity for pay rates to increase in a controlled environment, with a sufficient lead in time and a staggered implementation to help minimise the impact on sector organisations and funders. Alternatively, funders will face a looming crisis as services start closing due to lack of adequate staff.

“ACOSS will continue to lead the campaign for decent wages for sector workers, which we have consistently argued will only be achieved through a nationally consistent approach that recognises the significant extent of funding of the sector by all levels of government around the country,” Dr Goldie said.

Media contact: Fernando de Freitas 0419 626 155

See more on ACOSS equal pay campaign

Also see previous ACOSS Community Sector Survey: Latest survey due for release in March 2011