Push for gender-based wage rise to help close pay gap

Workers in caring jobs and other feminised sectors should get a nine per cent wage rise, the peak union body says, as issues over equality were in sharp focus after a weekend of protests over violence against women.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions is pushing for the rise in the upcoming national wage review for workers in industries historically undervalued based on gender, such as child care and health services.

The wage boost would amount to an extra four per cent on the five per cent the union body has been advocating for across all workers covered by awards and minimum pay rates.

If accepted, a full-time care worker could see their pay boosted by $90 a week.

The Fair Work Commission is undergoing its annual wage review and has been hearing from employers, unions and governments ahead of its final decision in coming months.

The elevated cost of living and other economic factors are factored into the independent workplace relations umpire’s call, as well as goals like closing the gender pay gap.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said achieving equal pay for women needed systemic change and targeted pay rises in industries traditionally dominated by women.

“A nine per cent pay increase will not only support families with cost-of-living pressures, it will also be a vital first step to properly valuing the work of working women doing critical work for our community, such as educating the next generation and caring for our loved ones.”

Finance Minister and Minister for Women, Katy Gallagher, said the government was “absolutely committed” to improving pay rates across feminised industries.

Sectors such as aged care had already been handed more than nine per cent increases, she said, with the FWC currently considering the case for early childhood educators.

Gender equality is at the fore in Australia as a rise in the number of women being killed by partners in recent weeks meant Senator Gallagher spent much of her morning addressing questions about what the government was doing to address the crisis.

She said economic empowerment was linked to better treatment of women in society.

“We recognise that a lot of the issues that women face can be improved if they have economic security and part of that is getting better pay for the work they do,” she told ABC TV.

Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor said reducing inflation was the best way to improve the purchasing power of low-paid workers.

“And then it’s not just those industries who do better, who deserve to do better, but everybody,” he said.

The union’s five per cent increase for all minimum and award workers was notably higher than the two per cent lift supported by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and 2.8 per cent boost backed by Ai Group.

The federal government has stuck with the same recommendation as the past two decisions, calling for the real wages of low-paid workers to not go backward.


Poppy Johnston
(Australian Associated Press)


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