Pay Justice Action, the grassroots campaign for equal pay, chose May Day to launch a petition directed at Prime Minister Julia Gillard, highlighting that women workers are sick of waiting for equal pay.
The statistics are appalling. Women working full-time earn, on average, nearly 18% less than men working full- time. In November 2010, the hourly gender pay gap was 12.2%. Over a lifetime, a woman in Australia will earn $1 million less than a man. The petition notes, “ In whatever way the numbers are analysed, woman still do not have equal pay, despite the 1972 ruling in favour of equal pay for work of equal value. This was almost four decades ago — pay up now!”
The petition is designed to highlight the government’ s hypocrisy. Its official view is that it “ is committed to pay equity in Australia.” It also marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’ s Day in March by announcing reforms to laws governing equal opportunity for women in the workplace. Announcing the measures, the Minister for the Status of Women, Kate Ellis, said pay equity would be enshrined in the objects of the Act and business would be required to report progress in closing the pay gap. Ellis claimed this would allow the government to see where gender pay gaps were emerging, improving or growing.
Rather than enshrined in an Act, women workers want to see equality delivered in their pay packet! Pay Justice Action campaigners argue that the government’ s actions do not match its words. Its submissions to Fair Work Australia in “ support” of equal remuneration claims by community sector workers emphasise that any ruling must not be allowed to damage the economy, will be complex, costly and have significant impact on government. It asks for no pay increase for the first six months and any increase awarded to be phased in over the next four-and-a-half years. In short, it wants to add five more years, to the 40 years these workers have already been waiting! It’ s not the only government equivocating when it comes to putting equal pay into action. In March, the Victorian state government backed away from its pre-election promise to fund the outcome of this case.
The Gillard government has also failed to deliver equal pay amongst the public service workforce it directly employs. Two decades of enterprise bargaining has led to massive pay gaps across the public service with female-dominated agencies being lower paid. The lowest paid agency of all is Aboriginal Hostels Ltd, which has a predominantly female and Indigenous workforce. In December 2010, the Gillard government reneged on a plan to move to a public service-wide agreement with mechanisms to close the pay gaps, when it ordered three more years of agency bargaining with no meaningful mechanism to address inequality.
The petition demands that immediate measures be taken to deliver equal pay for workers employed directly and indirectly by government and says this can be funded by taxing big business and redirecting funds from spending on war and corporate welfare.
Pay Justice Action is building a fighting movement to campaign for equal pay. To complement organising done by the union movement, PJA is mobilising rank-and-file workers and the community around working women’ s immediate needs. Join up! For a copy of the petition contact: firstname.lastname@example.org