Australia and the United States are the only two wealthy countries which do not provide a national paid maternity leave scheme. Compare this to Haiti and Jamaica, where women not only have this right, but employers pay for it! The lack of paid leave means that for two-thirds of working women, the “choice” is simple: if you want kids, pay for it yourself. This means not only loss of income, but maybe even the loss of a job. In a recent national poll, one in five women said they’re not having children for this reason. We must demand, as a bare minimum, laws requiring employers to keep open the jobs of pregnant women.
Women’s labour is central to the economy. Predictably, the Neanderthal wing of big business is opposed to what they call “social engineering.” However the smarter of Australia’s corporate managers understand the need to retain their women workers. Establishment “feminists” — from Howard’s anointed Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Pru Goward, to the Democrats’ Natasha Stott-Despoya and ALP Women’s Affairs Minister, Mary Delahunty, are campaigning for a maternity leave scheme because they, too, understand how central is women’s labour to the economy. In call centres, on factory floors and in offices, women are the majority of the workforce, with knowledge and experience that makes them all but irreplaceable.
ACTU falls for business scam. The union movement is naturally all for a paid maternity scheme. But how to pay for it? The smart bosses and their female apologists want taxpayers to pay, and the ACTU has mostly caved in, although it wants companies to “contribute” to the scheme. Hang on a minute! As both employees and consumers, women are the majority of taxpayers. It’s a con job, forcing us to pay for a condition of our employment. The union movment is wrong. Paid maternity leave must not be subsidised by women — directly or indirectly. Taxpayer funding is just more corporate welfare.
Make the bosses pay! The ACTU’s position is not only economically wrong, it’s sexist. Why should maternity leave be treated any differently from any other leave? Yes, men can’t take advantage of it, but it’s not counterposed to paid parenting leave. If a heterosexual couple decides that the male partner should do the parenting, then he should receive leave on full wages. The essential point is that employers should pay for conditions of employment. Maternity leave, at full pay, with generous time limits, should be inserted into every award or contract of employment, together with paid pre-natal and post-natal care and on-site, fully-funded childcare. Capitalism requires us to reproduce its labour force at no cost to the profit system. Sorry, but we are not slaves. We demand full payment for services rendered!