04/02/2010 - 00:00

Pressure mounts over pay equity

04/02/2010 - 00:00


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THE youth, welfare and community services sectors will be keeping a close eye on a pay equity test case to be lodged under the federal government’s new Fair Work system.

THE youth, welfare and community services sectors will be keeping a close eye on a pay equity test case to be lodged under the federal government’s new Fair Work system.

The Australian Services Union has reached a heads of agreement with the federal government regarding a package of measures for the transfer of social and community services employees into the federal system.

Under the agreement, the government will support the development of an appropriate equal pay principle and assist Fair Work Australia in the management of a proposed equal remuneration/work value application by the ASU.

The state government has not yet referred IR powers to the federal government, and therefore any employers that are not constitutional corporations will remain in the state system under current award conditions.

Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA manager industrial relations policy, Marcia Kuhne, said while low wages contribute to staff retention issues, the federal government has not made any commitment about funding any pay increases that would likely result from ASU’s application to FWA.

The federal government funds the community and social services sector to a large degree.

“So any claim that results in increased wages will need to be financially supported by the government,” Ms Kuhne said.

“If government support is not provided, many businesses providing those community services are likely to go out of business.

“So far there has been no application to FWA by the ASU for an equal pay/work value claim/application.”

The state’s peak community services group, Western Australian Council of Social Service, has warned that wage increases across the board were essential if workers were to be retained in the low-paid social services sector.

Speaking to WA Business News, WACOSS chief executive Sue Ash said many of the 36,000 people employed in the not-for-profit sector were already feeling the pressure of retaining staff as the need for the vital services they delivered continued to rise.

“Wages that the social and community services sector can afford to pay staff is not going up to the same degree as some competing industries like mining, business and government salaries,” she said.

Ms Ash said with a new resources boom likely and more lucrative job opportunities opening up, the sector would have to find a way to offer better salaries.

In order to lessen the potential impact on the sector of losing workers to the mines, it was critical the pay equity case being heard by FWA was successful, she said.

“Whatever the result of the claim, there’s no doubt funding bodies will need to step up to the plate with more support so that welfare groups can compete with the private sector for skilled staff,” Ms Ash said.

ASU WA assistant branch secretary, Pat Branson, said social and community services workers were often paid 40 per cent less than those doing similar jobs in the private sector.

“It’s just horrendous, so the test case will be helpful to the degree that it will get comparable funding to pay for people in the sector,” she said.




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