Working women need the rules to change
In more ways than one the rules for women at work are broken — and it’s time for change.
As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on 7 June, Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Secretary Sally McManus said women are ready to change the rules, as they are hit harder by broken workplace rights.
“In all the ways the rules are broken, they’re more broken for us.
“It’s actually got to do with sexism and got to do with patriarchy.”
The state of wages, conditions and safety for women in the workplace reflect this.
But as women are hit hardest by our broken rules, they stand to gain the most from changing them.
Women earning $250 less per week
A recent poll conducted for the ACTU found that working women were more greatly affected by Australia’s broken industrial laws.
The poll found 67% of women had not received a pay rise in the last 12 months, compared to 61% of men.
Ms McManus said women were feeling the brunt of inequity at work due to the gender pay gap and with more women in casual work or in female dominated industries.
As published by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) in February, Australia’s full-time gender pay gap stands at 15.3%, with the full-time average weekly earnings of women being $253.70 less than that of men.
Behind Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland take out second and third positions respectively on the ladder of wage discrimination across all states and territories.
IEUA Federal Assistant Secretary Christine Cooper said as education is a female-dominated industry, it is of utmost importance that we are able to secure wages that appropriately reflect the work and contributions of our members.
“When employers offer inadequate wage proposals, they are devaluing the work our members do.
“When our capacity as a union to improve wages and conditions is limited, as it is by the current laws, then our members are at risk — and this contributes to Australia’s wage gap.
“To ensure the gap is closed, unions need more power, particularly in female dominated industries, to achieve improved wages for their members,” Ms Cooper said.
Retiring with $110k less than men
A report released by the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA) showed on average the superannuation balances of men at the time of retirement exceed those of women by more than $110,000.
The gap shows no sign of closing, with Industry Super Australia data finding the average gap in super balances at retirement for women versus men will grow to around $170,000 by 2030.
Due to the bargaining strength of our members, the majority of employees in Queensland schools have access to a superannuation co-contribution scheme.
Superannuation co-contribution allows employees to access additional super from their employer and maximise retirement savings.
Ms Cooper said the scheme, a provision won by members, means tens of thousands of dollars more for employees when they reach retirement.
“Sacrificing 5% into your superannuation and receiving an employer co-contribution could make a $47,497 difference to your retirement balance over just 10 years.
“With working women retiring with less, we need to change the rules so that unions are able to make meaningful change at the bargaining table, to achieve life-changing provisions such as this for more employees in more sectors, and ensure women receive just as much as men when they retire," Ms Cooper said.
Members can find out more about the scheme at www.qieu.asn.au/resources
Sexual harassment at work a real threat
The threat of sexual harassment in Australian workplaces has triggered an independent national inquiry.
ACTU National Campaign Coordinator Kara Keys said the rules for women in work have failed to end workplace sexual harassment.
The current rules which are intended to protect workers, predominantly women, who experience workplace sexual harassment focus on individual claims and settlement processes.
"We need new approaches to this endemic problem and we hope that this inquiry will lead the way in changing the rules in this area," Ms Keys said.
“Most women, and many men, will experience some form of sexual harassment in their lifetime, and the tolerance of sexual harassment lays a foundation for other forms of gendered violence which occur at shocking rates in our society.
“Stopping sexual harassment, and giving people who experience it fast and effective avenues for recourse will not only help those directly affected, but will also send a message that workplace sexual harassment is largely experienced by women and it doesn’t occur in a vacuum.
"All forms of gender inequality, and gendered discrimination, directly contribute to violence," Ms Keys said.
The Australian Human Rights Commission’s (AHRC) is launching the inquiry, along with the fourth national survey into the prevalence of workplace harassment.
The last survey conducted in 2012 painted a concerning picture, finding approximately one in five people over the age of 15 years experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
Of those people, only one in five would make a complaint.
The 2012 survey also found that sexual harassment continues to affect more women than men, with 33% of women having been sexually harassed since the age of 15, compared to fewer than 9% of men.
The independent inquiry will hold public consultations in major cities and regional centres, with Australians having the opportunity to lodge submissions.
The inquiry will assess the effectiveness of the laws, investigate what is occurring in workplaces and explore the financial consequences of women who are targeted in the workplace.