Today we are celebrating the campaign for Equal Pay for community sector workers led by the Australian Services Union (ASU) and the historic victory it achieved on the 1st of February 2012.
This victory was part of a long history of unions campaigning for equal pay for women workers.
In 2010, following a successful stated-based case in Queensland that led to a pay increase for community sector workers, the ASU set out to correct the injustice of unequal pay.
Community sector work had been traditionally viewed as “women’s work” leading to a chronic and sexist underpayment of workers in this industry.
But the new Equal Renumeration Laws that were part of the Fair Work Act provided the opportunity to lodge a test case with Fair Work to correct this injustice.
The ASU and other unions, supported by the Australian Council of Trade Unions, launched a community campaign in which community sector workers sought to win public opinion to their side.
It was courageous, creative, and extraordinarily effective.
The campaign educated the public as to the realities of the sector and put a human face on unionism.
It included major rallies, coordinated dance routines, and even union flash mobs out the front of state parliaments to capture public attention.
This public pressure ensured the Federal Labor Government joined the claim, and it helped to build an overwhelming case for equal pay.
These workers faced serious opposition from conservative government’s in New South Wales and Victoria, as well as a number of employer groups.
But they could not stop the courageous union members whose determination for respect and equal treatment never wavered.
A favourable decision by the Fair Work Commission was handed down on 1 February 2012, and over 200,000 workers benefited as a result, receiving pay increases on the Award rates of between 23 to 45%.
It was an inspiring example of what a union is: working people coming together and taking action to get a fair go.
Watch the Australian Services Union’s history of the campaign video below.