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News News UnionsWA's Simone McGurk on the Pay Up! campaign

Dragged, kicking and screaming into the 21st century, I have been convinced to start twittering, inflicting my thought bubbles onto the world.

One consolation for the world is that they have to elect to receive my thought bubbles.

It did seem to me that there could be people who might like to hear a different take on things.   For instance I thought it might be useful to shine some light on what is happening for ordinary people working in different jobs throughout the state.

We often seem obsessed by the big money flowing up North but fail to appreciate the stories for those who don’t fit the “BOOM TOWN” mould.

Take for instance Patsy Molloy. Patsy’s the manager of Women’s Health Care Place in Midland, a centre which offers a range of services to women, including counselling (at 5% of commercial cost), family planning, mental health services and other preventative health measures like post natal counseling and free pap smears. They run a mobile GP clinic and work with the sexual assault resource centre.

All pretty important community health services.  Patsy is degree qualified and has been working there for over 10 years. She coordinates services, manages staff, applies for funding so that they can offer new programs and tries to ensure that the Centre is run consistent with it’s aims:  “healthy women, healthy community’.

For all that Patsy earns less than $55,000 a year.  She’s been a single parent on that salary, and is now also caring for her ageing mother. She says that if she had the same amount of responsibility and workload in the Health Department she would be earning more like $70 or $80,000 pa.

It’s for this reason that Patsy’s union is running a campaign: Pay Up! – No More Lip Service to Equal Pay. The Australian Services Union (ASU) says that community sector work has traditionally been seen as “women’s work” and their wages have been restricted as a result. Workers do not enter the sector for financial gain and this selflessness has long been taken advantage of.

It’s one of the reasons why there’s a  24% gap between men and women’s wages in WA.  This means that on average for every dollar earned by a full time male employee, full time female employees earn 76 cents.  The national gender pay gap is high enough at 17%, but WA’s gender pay difference is shameful.

The ASU has lodged a test case in Fair Work Australia using the new Equal Remuneration laws now available in the Act.  Nationally, the case could improve the pay of about 200,000 community workers.  The campaign is not only working on winning the test case, but on ensuring that governments stump up with the money to fund any increases won.

Employers and community groups are being asked to sign up their support. We are yet to see if the WA Barnett Liberal Government will commit to supporting the community workers’ claims.

Of course the Barnett Government is in the process of contracting out more and more work to the not-for-profit sector – but that’s another story.  In the meantime union members are fighting for fair wages.

Pay Up! is an important campaign to achieve equal pay. It’s practical and will make a difference for community workers and the services they provide.

Now I just have to fit that story into 140 characters.

Follow Simone McGurk on Twitter.

The article originally appeared on Wangle.

 
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