The work of the community services sector has never been more in demand, and more at risk.
This Equal Pay Day, Deborah Di Natale, CEO of the Northern Territory Council of Social Service, calls on the Federal Government to renew funding that ensures staff in the community services sector are fairly paid.
“Each year we greet Equal Pay Day with disappointment,” said Ms Di Natale.
Held 59 days after the end of the financial year, Equal Pay Day marks the additional number of days that women must work to earn the same pay as men.
“Data showing Territory women earn 12.2 percent less than men for full-time paid work is already well understood by the community service sector, which is largely made up of women and whose work is increasingly becoming casualised.
“While not rewarded with high pay or job security, this sector delivers crucial services, including financial counselling, mental health and domestic violence support, food relief, youth and homelessness services and much more.
“The demand for their work in our current and deepening economic crisis is only growing, and yet scheduled Federal Government cuts to the community service sector will see women lose their jobs and the gender wage gap widen,” said Ms Di Natale.
“Cutting pay for community sector workers is not just bad news for women; it’s bad for families; bad for the Territory economy, and disastrous for the health and wellbeing of the community.
“This Equal Pay Day we need the Federal Government to commit to funding for equal pay in the community service sector.”
In 2012 the Fair Work Commission made a landmark decision – the Equal Remuneration Order (ERO) – that addressed the gendered undervaluation of work performed in the community services sector. As a result, wages increased by up to 45% over 8 years, and the Federal Government provided additional funding as an ERO supplementation to its grants to ensure that community sector organisations could increase wages paid to workers, and maintain essential services to communities.
Funding for ERO payments is secured by an act of the Commonwealth Parliament, the Social and Community Services Pay Equity Special Account Act 2012. Under this Act, the last payment to the special account occurred on 1 July 2020, and the Federal Government will no longer pay Equal Remuneration Order (ERO) Supplementation from July 2021. The base rate of affected grants will not increase to include the supplementation. This will result in significant funding cuts for community sector organisations delivering federally funded programs.