Pay Equity Campaign

Pay Equity – who will address it in the next election?  

ACLW’s campaign commenced on 22 June 2010 and continued in the run up to the 2010 federal election. An Open Letter was sent to Prime Minister regarding the Pay Equity Campaign on 4 July 2010. Dr Sharman Stone was also emailed a letter via her website on 22 July 2010. 

The Australian government needs to be congratulated on legislating Australia’s first universal paid parental leave scheme. As this historic legislation supported by the coalition, means that from 2011 parents will be eligible to receive $570 a week in parental leave after the birth or adoption of a child and that the leave can be shared between parents, it is hoped that the government and other parties will now address another key issue for women to enable Australia to catch up with the rest of the developed world. According to the 2009 Global Gender Gap Report, on wage equality for similar work, Australia ranked 60th globally, and in terms of women’s economic participation and opportunity, Australia was 19th. In the 2008 Global Gender Gap Report, Australia ranked 21st out of 130 countries in the Gender wage gap index, but slipped to 20th in 2009.  

So, to make real progress in advancing the status of women in the workplace, the issue of Pay Equity must be addressed as a matter of urgency. The 2009 Making it Fair Report by the Australian House Standing Committee on Employment and Workplace Relations stated that whilst Australia’s gender pay gap had for some time been similar to those of comparable OECD countries, recently, Australia has seen an increase in the gender pay gap.  

The Report indicated that trends within industries and under various wage setting mechanisms may be responsible for up to 89 per cent of the difference. Quoting, the 2008 Workplace Industrial Relations Survey in Victoria, it found that female workers were less likely to be paid the average for an occupation in the workplace for all occupational groups. Gender biases in remuneration practices according to Diversity Council Australia were stated in this Report as possibly resulting from the use of biased standardized job evaluation schemes which value ‘masculine’ skills over ‘feminine’ skills; discretionary managerial decisions about remuneration;  managerial judgments made about performance and the person’s value to the organisation; providing career development opportunities for men and training for current jobs for women, and valuing and therefore remunerating more highly paid occupations which traditionally are men’s occupations. The New South Wales Office for Women’s Policy considered that it is the structural features linked to women’s working patterns in the Australian labour market that disproportionately impact on women in the negotiation of wages.  

In line with the recommendations of the Making it Fair Report, women want to know for the coming election, which leader and political party will demonstrate leadership in implementing and monitoring pay equity strategies across industries as well as within occupations in Australia?   

Pay equity is a basic human right. It is not only important for Australia’s future prosperity and economic productivity, but formulates Australia’s commitment to the UN Convention on Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (ILO100) which Australia ratified in 1974. To advance the status of women in the workplace, Australia must enact legislative reform to ensure  that women and men receive equal remuneration for work of equal value.  

If you would like to support this Campaign by the Australian Centre for Leadership for Women, please email me your name and/or organisation’s name. Your name and organisation will be published at CLW. Your email address will remain confidential. Comments on Pay Equity will also be published with your name if you wish to make any. 

Thank you  

Dr Diann Rodgers-Healey , Founder, Australian Centre for Leadership for Women (CLW) 

Supporters of the Pay Equity Campaign: 

NameSupporting Organisation
Fran HayesThe National Pay Equity Coalition
Lynn HarrisHarris: High Performance Coaching
Mary Tehan
Geraldine RobertsonWomen’s Web – Women’s Stories, Women’s Actions
Catherine OrdwaySport & Anti-Doping Consultant
Dr Frances Panopoulos
Helen Wiseman
Claire BreretonBrereton Consulting
Juliet BourkeAequus Partners
Professor Shirley Randell  AO
Dr Lynette J DumbleThe Global Sisterhood Network
Marion LauManagement Consultants and Technology Services Pty Ltd
Sally JonesNational Convenor, Older Women’s Network
Carolyn DeanHewsons International
Vivienne CorcoranMarketing Logic Pty Ltd
Sue Conde AMPresident, Unifem Australia
Helen Redhead
Dominique Ashford
Marie Coleman
Melba MarginsonExecutive Director, The Victorian Immigrant and Refugee Women’s Coalition
Kathy RichardsEquality Rights Alliance
Joy CardonaNational Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Women’s Gathering (NATSIWG)
Marilyn ForsythePresident, The Australian Federation of Business and Professional Women (BPW)
Cindy SteeleCo-Founder, Women’s Network
Neil GillespieCEO, Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement Inc
David SmithBranch Secretary, Australian Services Union, Queensland Services Branch
Kate GunnChair, Security4Women (S4W)
Dr Anne WalkerBoard President, International Women’s Tribune Centre
Kate O’ReillyOptimiss
Shirley Stott Despoja
Dr Jill Tomlinson
Janine KaretaiCEO, Kath Dickson Family Centre Association Incorporated
Helen Lyons-RileyPrincipal,  Taxsmart Pty Ltd
Jenny GretgrixDirector, Your Strategic Project Office
Dr Alison F. McIntosh
Carla RogersEVOLVE Communities
Natalie Moutia and Cindy SteeleCo-Founders of Sydney and Central Coast Women’s Network
Maggie Augello-Luke
Chilla Bulbeck,Professor Emerita and Visiting Research Fellow, School of Social Sciences, The University of Adelaide
Eileen OatesCEO, Centre Against Sexual Assault, Bendigo
Dr Desiree YapPresident, Australian Federation of Medical Women (AFMW)
Bridgette Engeler NewburyPrincipal, Incognito Sum
Judy FlanaganManager, Eastern Centre Against Sexual AssaultEastern Centre Against Sexual Assault
Helen KambouridisGatehouse Centre
Belinda Tkalcevic ACTU Industrial Officer
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU)

An Open Letter was sent to Prime Minister regarding the Pay Equity Campaign on 4 July 2010. 

The Hon. Julia Gillard, MP
Prime Minister of Australia

Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600 

Dear Prime Minister Gillard 

I am writing to you to draw your attention to the tremendous support that women and women’s organisations representing a large number of women across Australia are giving to an ongoing petition requesting legislative reform for gender pay equity in Australia.  The Australia Centre for Leadership for Women (CLW) has been running a Pay Equity Campaign since 22 June 2010 which has received a high level of endorsement. In line with the recommendations of the Making it Fair Report released in November 2009 by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment and Workplace Relations, women want to know for the coming election, if you will demonstrate leadership in implementing and monitoring pay equity strategies across industries as well as within occupations in Australia? A copy of the petition which is ongoing at CLW is attached detailing supporters and their organizations at the time of this letter.  

The government is to be commended for the comprehensive 2008 Pay Equity Inquiry by the Acting Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, The Hon Brendan O’Connor on pay equity and associated issues related to increasing female participation in the workforce. The resultant Make it Fair Report provided ample evidence to support their recommendations for legislative reform to create a scheme to close the gender pay gap. 

The Fair Work Act 2009 which you established as Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations to ensure a balanced framework for cooperative and productive workplace relations contains a range of provisions which will better support women in the workplace. However, it is evident that the onus is on the affected employee to make the complaint of unequal remuneration. Given that many of the submissions to the 2008 Pay Equity Inquiry indicated that many Australians are unaware of the existence of a “pay gap” between men and women’s earnings and even what pay equity means, this underlies how much needs to be done to create a scheme that is supported by legislation that is proactive and comprehensive.  Sharryn Jackson MP who chaired The Pay Equity Inquiry stated,   

“It is true that the Fair Work Act does widen the scope for applications to be taken at the federal level for equal pay for work of comparable value. However, the experience of similar provisions in some state Industrial Relations legislation still demonstrate relatively few cases have been dealt with. All cases have been adversarial, lengthy and often costly. A better system is needed and the suggested changes in this Report will address this (p.15).” 

A comprehensive approach that addresses discriminatory workplace practices and schemes, and cultural barriers embedded in industrial and wider social structures is required so that in workplaces women will experience decisions supported by attitudes that value women, women’s work, paid and/or unpaid, and opportunities for their advancement in the workplace.    

The Make it Fair Report recommends proposed amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009, greater powers for the Sex Discrimination Commissioner to act on wage discrimination and the establishment of a specialist Pay Equity Unit within Fair Work Australia with a broad mandate for change.  

I congratulate you on becoming Australia’s first female Prime Minister. As a recent news article stated (Brisbane Times, 26 June 2010), you join the ranks of 26 female leaders in 23 countries, including three queens, four governors-general, 10 presidents and, as of Thursday, 24 June 2010, nine prime ministers. You have demonstrated that you can deliver fundamental changes on many fronts including the Australian workplace relations system. As Founder of the Australian Centre for Leadership for Women (CLW), I ask in association with the women and supporting organisations represented on CLW’s Pay Equity petition that you consider taking a pro-active approach to address the gender pay gap and enact legislative reform in line with the recommendations of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment and Workplace Relations stated in the Make it Fair Report.   

There are a host of significant reasons that justify your doing this, including: 

  • That increasing women’s participation in the workforce will lead to increases in productivity for the nation
  • This will sustain the tax base of an ageing population.
  • This will cease historical disadvantages in remuneration levels between women and men.
  • This will cease direct and indirect discrimination against women linked to legal, social, industrial and economic factors.
  • This will ensure equitable access to leave and training and promotion opportunities will be available to women who have taken maternity leave and/or returned to work part time and/or sought flexible work hours.
  • This will ensure that structural arrangements in the negotiation of wages will cease to impact disproportionately on women.
  • This will ensure that the system will facilitate fairer outcomes to value women and their work, traditional or non-traditional, paid or unpaid.
  • It will ensure women’s economic security and independence.

Most importantly, your leadership will ensure that Pay equity as the right to equal pay for work of equal value is respected unconditionally and unequivocally in Australia.  This will be of international significance given that according to the International Labor Organisation’s 2008/09 Report (Gender Equality at the Heart of Decent Work), the pay gap between genders is still high and closing very slowly:

“Among developed countries, Germany, Poland and the United States are amongst the countries where the gap between top and bottom wages has increased most rapidly. In other regions, inequality has also increased sharply, particularly in Argentina, China and Thailand. Some of the countries which have succeeded in reducing wage inequality include France and Spain, as well as Brazil and Indonesia, though in these latter two countries inequality remains at a high level…Although about 80 per cent of the countries for which data are available have seen an increase in the ratio of female to male average wages, the size of change is small and in some cases negligible.” 

I wish you the very best in forging a new period of women’s leadership in Australia and welcome the opportunity to be informed and inform other women and women’s organizations through CLW the decisive measures you will take to address gender pay equity in Australia.   

Yours faithfully 

Diann Rodgers-Healey


Background Info on the Gender Wage gap:

Gender wage gap costs $93 billion – study 

  • From: AAP
  • March 15, 2010 5:37PM 

THE gender wage gap costs Australia $93 billion a year in productivity, and 60 per cent of the disparity comes down simply to “being a woman”, a report shows. 

The gap between men and women’s pay remains at 17 per cent, and the total dollar figure is the equivalent of 8.5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), the National Centre of Social Economic Modelling (NATSEM) reveals. 

NATSEM today released its report – The impact of a sustained gender wage gap on the Australian economy – which details the age-old wage discrimination issue. 

The report drew on two decades of Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) wage data between, 1990 and 2009. 

It shows the gap climbed from a low of 15 per cent in February 2005 to a high of 17 per cent four years later. 

The report’s authors used micro-economic modelling to determine that the gender factor accounted for 60 per cent of the wage gap between men and women. 

Industry segregation was the second largest factor, accounting for 25 per cent of the gap. 

Segregation shows that a number of industries are populated primarily by men, while other industries are served mainly by women. 

Overall, the 17 per cent wage gap results in less incentive for women to work and could be worth about $93 billion or 8.5 per cent of GDP each year, NATSEM found. 

“This suggests that based on the assumptions of the model, the negative impact of the gender wage gap on Australia’s macro-economic performance stems primarily from the disincentives to work more hours associated with women’s earnings being lower than men’s,” the report states. 

The Australian Services Union last week launched a gender pay gap test case with Fair Work Australia, focusing on the lower pay of community sector workers. 

The union argues that lower wages in the female-dominated community sector – including women’s refuges, family support centres, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and migrant resources – should be brought into line with pay rates in a similar, male-dominated industry. 

Federal Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard said it was “in the long-term interests of this nation to sort this issue out and for us to have a community and social services sector with an appropriately dealt with, highly professional workforce”. 


Julia Gillard supports pay equity bid 

  • By Stephen Johnson
  • From: AAP
  • March 11, 2010 1:50AM 

FEDERAL Workplace Relations Minister Julia Gillard is backing a union for taking a gender pay gap case to the industrial umpire. 

The Australian Services Union will launch a test case with Fair Work Australia today regarding the lower pay of community sector workers. 

They are the people who work in women’s refuges, family support centres, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and migrant resources. 

The union will argue that lower wages in the feminised community sector should be brought into line with pay rates in a similar, male-dominated industry. 

Ms Gillard, who is also deputy prime minister, said the government would ensure Fair Work Australia had all the facts it needed to deal with the union’s application. 

“We believe it’s in the long-term interests of this nation to sort this issue out and for us to have a community and social services sector with an appropriately dealt with, highly professional workforce,” she told ABC Television yesterday. 

“If we don’t have fair arrangements for these workers, we know the cost of that is continual churn in the workforce.” 

Under the new Fair Work Australia regime, which began in January, unions can take pay equity cases to the national industrial umpire. 

The legal machinery is also more streamlined with community sector worker awards to come under a national system from July. 

Ms Gillard said a successful gender equity decision for community sector workers would be unlikely to spark wage pressures in the economy. 

“It’s not a change that would have flow-on into other awards, it would be for this section of the workforce,” she said. 

Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president Sharan Burrow admitted the push for a $100 a week pay rise for 200,000 community sector workers was not small. 

“We’re not pretending it’s not a sizeable figure but is that something that should stop women being paid properly,” she told ABC Television. 

She described women in the community sector as angels who helped the homeless, women in domestic violence situations and vulnerable children. 

“You name it, they’re there to care for people who need help most in our community yet they’re paid a pittance,” Ms Burrow said. 

Opposition workplace relations spokesman Eric Abetz said higher wages for community sector workers could leave the federal government with a substantial wages bill in difficult budgetary circumstances. 

“The general principle of pay equity is something I think most people would agree with but I do indicate there may well be caveats in relation to wage parity claims, the knock-on effect,” Senator Abetz told ABC Television. 

The ACTU estimates that women in the Australian labour market are paid 17 per cent less than men, and earned $1 million less over their working lives. 

Ms Gillard, Ms Burrow and Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick will speak at the Equal Pay Alliance campaign today in Canberra. 

The group, made up of unions and business, calls on political parties and employers to place more value on women’s work. 


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