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Test case brings wage increase closer for community sector workers

2 min read

The Federal Government has reached agreement with the major union representing social and community services workers, to support the conduct of a major test case on pay equity for community sector employees.

The agreement with the Australian Services Union (ASU) has been made in anticipation of the creation of the new national workplace relations system for the private sector from 1 January 2010 following references of powers from the states.

Under the Fair Work system, social and community services sector workers – working in the youth, welfare and community sectors – will become covered by the Fair Work Act and a single modern award, rather than the multitude of state and federal laws, awards and instruments that currently apply.

The ASU has advised the Federal Government that it will apply to Fair Work Australia in the near future seeking orders for similar pay increases based on pay equity grounds for social and community sector workers in the other States. This will be the first claim to be considered under the new, enhanced provisions of the Fair Work Act and will therefore be a significant test case. The sector employs more than 200,000 employees, 87 per cent of whom are women.

The Federal Government has now agreed to work with the ASU to support Fair Work Australia in developing an appropriate equal remuneration principle for the federal jurisdiction and to provide research (such as labour market information) to assist in determining the pay equity claim.

The Federal Government has also agreed to assist the ASU, employers and employees in the sector to successfully manage the transfer to the new national system by providing a guide to termination of employment and ensuring employers provide for adequate dispute resolution processes.

The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) congratulated the ASU and the Government on addressing the low wages of community sector workers.

ACOSS CEO Clare Martin said “We strongly support the test case as a vital step towards long-awaited pay increases for community workers. Low wages have meant the community sector has long-battled workforce shortages and problems of attracting and retaining well-qualified staff.”

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