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Fair work rings a death knell for the community sector?

By 1 February 2012 40

The “community sector” as its come to be known is a series of organisations being paid by the government to provide social services that would otherwise be the responsibility of the Government.

It’s grown like topsy in the last 20 years because the community sector providers have found cheaper ways to deliver services than Governments can manage.

A major way they’ve done this is by finding people willing to do the work for much less money than Governments have been able to do.

Today the Greens’ Meredith Hunter is celebrating the decision by Fair Work Australia to pay community sector workers the same wages as government social workers.

“In May 2011, Fair Work Australia found that employees in the SACS industry are predominantly women and are generally remunerated at a level below that of employees of state and local governments who perform similar work,” ACT Greens Leader, Meredith Hunter, said today.

“This brought to the public’s attention a fact many in the community sector have known for a long time, namely that much of this vital work has been undervalued and underpaid.”

“After many months of waiting, today’s announcement of pay increases of between 18-40% over 8 years is a much needed validation of the important work of over 200,000 people nationally, working in social services, disability support and other community services.

Which rather renders the community sector redundant and certainly means we’re going to have less services, and probably less employment.

But it will be more fair.

UPDATE: Minister for Community Services Joy Burch has announced that in the short term the ACT Government is going to make good the difference:

“I am pleased to announce that we will fund the increased salary costs for community sector organisations that deliver programs through agreements with the ACT Government,” Ms Burch said.

“The ACT Labor Government’s commitment means that many Community Sector workers will receive significant wage increases without their employers having to compromise on service delivery to fund the outcome of the case.”

“Today the ACT Labor Government is standing up to support community workers with fair pay, particularly for women, who make up the bulk of the workforce in the sector.”

Ms Burch said she was pleased that the ACT Council of social Services had welcomed the ACT Government’s announcement, as the Government had worked closely with the sector to develop the best response for the community and the sector.

She said the impact of the decision on the Budget would be proportionately less in the ACT than other jurisdictions, as community workers here were already paid more than their interstate counterparts.

“Thanks to a tradition of support by the ACT Labor Government, at least 85 per cent of employers in the community sector in the ACT currently pay their employees above the Award.

“We understand the sector will require support over the phase in period as the new Award impacts upon them, and the Government is today providing certainty that funding will be increased by an amount equivalent to the impact on their salary costs.”

Preliminiary calculations estimate the impact of today’s decision on the ACT Government to be $27 million over eight years.

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40 Responses to Fair work rings a death knell for the community sector?
#1
eh_steve10:07 am, 02 Feb 12

And the Commonwealth is going to pay their share too.

These organisations are still going to be able to get the job done at a much lower rate than the Government ever could.

Programs like Building the Education Revolution, or those expensive kiosks at LBG, or any other number of programs demonstrate the cost of bureaucracy is more than just higher pay for workers.

I am sick of hearing this described as a gender equality issue . Commentators consistently say that people doing a similar job outside of the Community Sector get paid more, which is true. Or at least it was until yesterday.

However, those workers are also mostly female, so the difference in rates of pay has absolutely nothing to do with gender, and yesterday’s decision has nothing to do with gender equality.

#2
Onceler10:30 am, 02 Feb 12

eh_steve said :

And the Commonwealth is going to pay their share too.

These organisations are still going to be able to get the job done at a much lower rate than the Government ever could.

Programs like Building the Education Revolution, or those expensive kiosks at LBG, or any other number of programs demonstrate the cost of bureaucracy is more than just higher pay for workers.

I am sick of hearing this described as a gender equality issue . Commentators consistently say that people doing a similar job outside of the Community Sector get paid more, which is true. Or at least it was until yesterday.

However, those workers are also mostly female, so the difference in rates of pay has absolutely nothing to do with gender, and yesterday’s decision has nothing to do with gender equality.

It is about gender equality in the sense that this type of work is typically done by women (not always, but more than often), and has been undervalued in terms of remuneration. The pay increase is meant to address that.

#3
poetix10:30 am, 02 Feb 12

eh_steve said :

I am sick of hearing this described as a gender equality issue . Commentators consistently say that people doing a similar job outside of the Community Sector get paid more, which is true. Or at least it was until yesterday.

However, those workers are also mostly female, so the difference in rates of pay has absolutely nothing to do with gender, and yesterday’s decision has nothing to do with gender equality.

But if most of the community workers are female, and the pay just went up, that will slightly close the wage gap between male and female workers, and so it is about gender equality in a wider sense.

#4
Jim Jones10:59 am, 02 Feb 12

eh_steve said :

yesterday’s decision has nothing to do with gender equality.

Completely untrue.

#5
colourful sydney rac11:11 am, 02 Feb 12

eh_steve said :

yesterday’s decision has nothing to do with gender equality.

Simply wrong.

#6
eh_steve12:06 pm, 02 Feb 12

How can it be about gender, when the argument is that people doing the same job in other sectors get paid more.

The people doing that same job, and getting paid more, are mostly females too.

So this decision hasn’t brought the wages of women doing the same job as men onto the same level, it has brought women doing the same job as other women onto the same level.

It is a good decision, but the context it has been placed in is misleading.

#7
EvanJames12:16 pm, 02 Feb 12

The sector is female-dominated, and the type of work is female-dominated. Put them both together, and you have the situation where this work is under-valued.

compare this with what’s happened in the trades and trades assistant/labouring roles in recent times. The bloke I buy my coffee from rants about how some of the blokes doing a build in the district come in, they can’t string a sentence together yet they’re on $70 – $120 an hour.

Yet all these people in the caring occupations that are community-based are working for pitiful rates of pay.

#8
Erg012:59 pm, 02 Feb 12

EvanJames said :

The sector is female-dominated, and the type of work is female-dominated. Put them both together, and you have the situation where this work is under-valued.

I’m not sure I understand this correctly, are you asserting that they were being paid less because they’re female?

It seems overly simplistic to compare construction workers to community workers without accounting for differing rates of unionisation, profit vs non-profit industries, training requirements, availability of skilled workers, etc. I absolutely agree that community work is/was undervalued, but there’s a lot more behind that than simple gender politics.

#9
chewy141:13 pm, 02 Feb 12

Jim Jones said :

eh_steve said :

yesterday’s decision has nothing to do with gender equality.

Completely untrue.

Exactly,
It’s set true gender equality back a long way.

#10
chewy141:15 pm, 02 Feb 12

EvanJames said :

The sector is female-dominated, and the type of work is female-dominated. Put them both together, and you have the situation where this work is under-valued.

compare this with what’s happened in the trades and trades assistant/labouring roles in recent times. The bloke I buy my coffee from rants about how some of the blokes doing a build in the district come in, they can’t string a sentence together yet they’re on $70 – $120 an hour.

Yet all these people in the caring occupations that are community-based are working for pitiful rates of pay.

Why don’t these women go and do a trade if its so easy and the pay is so wonderful?

#11
Deref2:18 pm, 02 Feb 12

“It’s grown like topsy in the last 20 years because the community sector providers have paid their workers less than Governments do.”

I fixed that for you.

#12
EvanJames2:43 pm, 02 Feb 12

Odd that there’s no mention in all of this of the non-profit tax rort, that many non-profits use to bump their pay scales up. It adds about $15 grand or so to each pay packet and saves non-profits a heap of salary money.

#13
Ben_Dover2:52 pm, 02 Feb 12

eh_steve said :

How can it be about gender, when the argument is that people doing the same job in other sectors get paid more.

The people doing that same job, and getting paid more, are mostly females too.

That is a falacy, people are not doing “the same job”.

#14
Jim Jones3:01 pm, 02 Feb 12

chewy14 said :

Jim Jones said :

eh_steve said :

yesterday’s decision has nothing to do with gender equality.

Completely untrue.

Exactly,
It’s set true gender equality back a long way.

You believe that raising pay scales of traditionally female dominated/associated industries to an equal level as those of male dominated/associated industries is ‘setting true gender equality back’?

Next you’ll be arguing that the end of apartheid was a massive blow to racial equality.

#15
watto233:01 pm, 02 Feb 12

I’m struggling to see the gender equality side of it myself.
If a male was working in the community sector, he’d be getting paid the same as a female.

The real issue was the sector itself was deemed to be underpaid, compared to say office workers in general. This has nothing to do with gender equality IMO, but they use the gender equality argument because it works.

Gender equality is you do the same job you get paid the same. OK so maybe male dominated industries are paid more, but its not anything to do with gender, its to do with the services provided and what people are willing to pay for them. It seems people have no issues overpaying trades people, but there are plenty of female tradies earning a packet (ok so its far from 50-50).

#16
Jim Jones3:03 pm, 02 Feb 12

chewy14 said :

EvanJames said :

The sector is female-dominated, and the type of work is female-dominated. Put them both together, and you have the situation where this work is under-valued.

compare this with what’s happened in the trades and trades assistant/labouring roles in recent times. The bloke I buy my coffee from rants about how some of the blokes doing a build in the district come in, they can’t string a sentence together yet they’re on $70 – $120 an hour.

Yet all these people in the caring occupations that are community-based are working for pitiful rates of pay.

Why don’t these women go and do a trade if its so easy and the pay is so wonderful?

This is going to come as a big shock to you, so you should probably sit down first.

Ready?

Some people work for reasons other than greed and self-interest.

Hard to believe, I know. But it does actually happen.

#17
NoImRight3:14 pm, 02 Feb 12

EvanJames said :

Odd that there’s no mention in all of this of the non-profit tax rort, that many non-profits use to bump their pay scales up. It adds about $15 grand or so to each pay packet and saves non-profits a heap of salary money.

Rort? Its part of the reason they are allowed to do it. The intention was to assist non-profit organisations. Next you’ll be stumbling onto the rort that people on low incomes pay less income tax. Nice plucking of a figure out the air though to give it a real sense of outrage.

#18
dungfungus3:23 pm, 02 Feb 12

“Preliminiary calculations estimate the impact of today’s decision on the ACT Government to be $27 million over eight years”
That’s not much. Only about half what was lost on TransACT and Rhodium over the same period of time. I think a lot of people will be disappointed though as this “announcement” is just that; no detail on exactly when but it is an election year so no doubt we will be reminded regularly of Labor’s “committment” to it.

#19
chewy143:23 pm, 02 Feb 12

Jim Jones said :

chewy14 said :

EvanJames said :

The sector is female-dominated, and the type of work is female-dominated. Put them both together, and you have the situation where this work is under-valued.

compare this with what’s happened in the trades and trades assistant/labouring roles in recent times. The bloke I buy my coffee from rants about how some of the blokes doing a build in the district come in, they can’t string a sentence together yet they’re on $70 – $120 an hour.

Yet all these people in the caring occupations that are community-based are working for pitiful rates of pay.

Why don’t these women go and do a trade if its so easy and the pay is so wonderful?

This is going to come as a big shock to you, so you should probably sit down first.

Ready?

Some people work for reasons other than greed and self-interest.

Hard to believe, I know. But it does actually happen.

Jim,
Thanks for making my point.
These workers have chosen to work in an industry that gives them job satisfaction/flexibility/little warm fuzzies.
Others sacrifice that for money.
Now they want to whinge that they can’t get paid what they think they’re worth in a job that they love.
Welcome to reality.

#20
chewy143:27 pm, 02 Feb 12

Oh and Jim,
There’s a difference between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome.
I think true equality is the first, you seem to think its the latter.

#21
dungfungus3:32 pm, 02 Feb 12

eh_steve said :

And the Commonwealth is going to pay their share too.

These organisations are still going to be able to get the job done at a much lower rate than the Government ever could.

Programs like Building the Education Revolution, or those expensive kiosks at LBG, or any other number of programs demonstrate the cost of bureaucracy is more than just higher pay for workers.

I am sick of hearing this described as a gender equality issue . Commentators consistently say that people doing a similar job outside of the Community Sector get paid more, which is true. Or at least it was until yesterday.

However, those workers are also mostly female, so the difference in rates of pay has absolutely nothing to do with gender, and yesterday’s decision has nothing to do with gender equality.

You are correct about the non-gender issue as one leading commentator said today:
“The first thing to note is that the comparator for the claim for equal pay for women was not male workers, but other carers who work in the government sector – mainly females.

This was, in fact, a comparative wage justice decision, not an ‘equal pay for women’ one. It was a throwback to the old days before modern enterprise bargaining”

Why let the facts get in the way of a good Labor spin though.

#22
Waiting For Godot3:49 pm, 02 Feb 12

This decision means less people being employed and the neediest in the community suffering even more.

Australia already has the highest wages in the world and this has pushed up the cost of living for everybody. It has devastating effects down the line. High wages means job losses, companies going broke, less tax being collected, more people on welfare, more expensive goods in fewer stores and a higher crime rate.

There should be an immediate move to cut all salaries by at least 60% to get us competitive again and boost employment.

#23
NoImRight4:15 pm, 02 Feb 12

Waiting For Godot said :

This decision means less people being employed and the neediest in the community suffering even more.

Australia already has the highest wages in the world and this has pushed up the cost of living for everybody. It has devastating effects down the line. High wages means job losses, companies going broke, less tax being collected, more people on welfare, more expensive goods in fewer stores and a higher crime rate.

There should be an immediate move to cut all salaries by at least 60% to get us competitive again and boost employment.

Im intrigued by your philosophy. How do I subscribe to your newsletter?

#24
EvanJames4:19 pm, 02 Feb 12

NoImRight said :

EvanJames said :

Odd that there’s no mention in all of this of the non-profit tax rort, that many non-profits use to bump their pay scales up. It adds about $15 grand or so to each pay packet and saves non-profits a heap of salary money.

Rort? Its part of the reason they are allowed to do it. The intention was to assist non-profit organisations. Next you’ll be stumbling onto the rort that people on low incomes pay less income tax. Nice plucking of a figure out the air though to give it a real sense of outrage.

It is a rort, as it’s also used by state health departments, and is utilised by people on high incomes also. Plus wealthy non-profits use it to reduce their salary bill especially for the worker-bees, and a nice sideline to that is they can calculate their super contributions based on the base salary, not the one that the worker gets after the tax rort kicks in. Means the worker gets a lot less super though.

Rort.

#25
NoImRight4:26 pm, 02 Feb 12

EvanJames said :

NoImRight said :

EvanJames said :

Odd that there’s no mention in all of this of the non-profit tax rort, that many non-profits use to bump their pay scales up. It adds about $15 grand or so to each pay packet and saves non-profits a heap of salary money.

Rort? Its part of the reason they are allowed to do it. The intention was to assist non-profit organisations. Next you’ll be stumbling onto the rort that people on low incomes pay less income tax. Nice plucking of a figure out the air though to give it a real sense of outrage.

It is a rort, as it’s also used by state health departments, and is utilised by people on high incomes also. Plus wealthy non-profits use it to reduce their salary bill especially for the worker-bees, and a nice sideline to that is they can calculate their super contributions based on the base salary, not the one that the worker gets after the tax rort kicks in. Means the worker gets a lot less super though.

Rort.

You mean using the legislation the way it was intended is a rort? Your understanding of rort seems to be “someone is doing something I cant”. To me rort means using it inappropriately or deceptively to gain a financial advantage. If your definition is correct then yes I guess it is a rort and your post is not at all a petty whinge.

#26
Jim Jones4:30 pm, 02 Feb 12

chewy14 said :

Jim Jones said :

chewy14 said :

EvanJames said :

The sector is female-dominated, and the type of work is female-dominated. Put them both together, and you have the situation where this work is under-valued.

compare this with what’s happened in the trades and trades assistant/labouring roles in recent times. The bloke I buy my coffee from rants about how some of the blokes doing a build in the district come in, they can’t string a sentence together yet they’re on $70 – $120 an hour.

Yet all these people in the caring occupations that are community-based are working for pitiful rates of pay.

Why don’t these women go and do a trade if its so easy and the pay is so wonderful?

This is going to come as a big shock to you, so you should probably sit down first.

Ready?

Some people work for reasons other than greed and self-interest.

Hard to believe, I know. But it does actually happen.

Jim,
Thanks for making my point.
These workers have chosen to work in an industry that gives them job satisfaction/flexibility/little warm fuzzies.
Others sacrifice that for money.
Now they want to whinge that they can’t get paid what they think they’re worth in a job that they love.
Welcome to reality.

Job satisfaction? Flexibility? Warm fuzzies? As a community sector worker?

BWAAAA HA HA HAHAHAHAHA HAHA HA HA AH AH AHAHAH AH A

Ah, seriously, chewy – that sh1t might fly over on Andrew Bolt’s blog, but you’d have a hard time of convincing anyone with half a brain that community carers choose their jobs because it’s such a happy place to work.

#27
Erg04:32 pm, 02 Feb 12

EvanJames said :

It is a rort, as it’s also used by state health departments, and is utilised by people on high incomes also. Plus wealthy non-profits use it to reduce their salary bill especially for the worker-bees, and a nice sideline to that is they can calculate their super contributions based on the base salary, not the one that the worker gets after the tax rort kicks in. Means the worker gets a lot less super though.

Rort.

Although there’s a benevolent intention behind the FBT exemption for non-profits (I assume that’s what you’re talking about), it’s not a very efficient way to deliver the intended outcome. It delivers the largest benefit to the employees with the highest taxable incomes, and is unlikely to be claimed by less sophisticated workers, who probably need it more. On top of that, it obfuscates the reality of the situation when comparing relative wages between sectors. Innovative solutions are great and all, but I don’t think they really nailed it with this one.

#28
Jim Jones4:37 pm, 02 Feb 12

Waiting For Godot said :

Australia already has the highest wages in the world and this has pushed up the cost of living for everybody. It has devastating effects down the line. High wages means job losses, companies going broke, less tax being collected, more people on welfare, more expensive goods in fewer stores and a higher crime rate.

Nope. Although you’re doing a great job of channeling Heather Ridout (kudos).

Why not visit somewhere where labour costs are low and see how high the standard of living is and what the crime rate is like.

Wages (and standards of living) are high in democratic countries such as Australia (and notably the Nordic Democratic Socialist countries of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland), all of which have extremely high standards of living and relatively low crime rates.

Low wages are traditionally found in third-world countries where crime is as endemic as poverty.

#29
EvanJames4:39 pm, 02 Feb 12

NoImRight said :

You mean using the legislation the way it was intended is a rort? Your understanding of rort seems to be “someone is doing something I cant”. To me rort means using it inappropriately or deceptively to gain a financial advantage. If your definition is correct then yes I guess it is a rort and your post is not at all a petty whinge.

Your reading comprehension is quite deficient. How do you think I know so much about what happens in both entities I mentioned?

However, looking at your postings around this site today, I suspect that trolling for reactions is your real intention. You’re just arguing for the sake of arguing.

#30
chewy144:57 pm, 02 Feb 12

Jim Jones said :

chewy14 said :

Jim Jones said :

chewy14 said :

EvanJames said :

The sector is female-dominated, and the type of work is female-dominated. Put them both together, and you have the situation where this work is under-valued.

compare this with what’s happened in the trades and trades assistant/labouring roles in recent times. The bloke I buy my coffee from rants about how some of the blokes doing a build in the district come in, they can’t string a sentence together yet they’re on $70 – $120 an hour.

Yet all these people in the caring occupations that are community-based are working for pitiful rates of pay.

Why don’t these women go and do a trade if its so easy and the pay is so wonderful?

This is going to come as a big shock to you, so you should probably sit down first.

Ready?

Some people work for reasons other than greed and self-interest.

Hard to believe, I know. But it does actually happen.

Jim,
Thanks for making my point.
These workers have chosen to work in an industry that gives them job satisfaction/flexibility/little warm fuzzies.
Others sacrifice that for money.
Now they want to whinge that they can’t get paid what they think they’re worth in a job that they love.
Welcome to reality.

Job satisfaction? Flexibility? Warm fuzzies? As a community sector worker?

BWAAAA HA HA HAHAHAHAHA HAHA HA HA AH AH AHAHAH AH A

Ah, seriously, chewy – that sh1t might fly over on Andrew Bolt’s blog, but you’d have a hard time of convincing anyone with half a brain that community carers choose their jobs because it’s such a happy place to work.

Wow Jim,
Your invisible argument has convinced me.
Perhaps you can enlighten us as to why they choose these jobs then? If its not for money or job satisfaction, why would they possibly go into these roles when they could all be plumbers or electricians getting easy money? Unless you’re saying they didn’t know what the jobs were like beforehand?

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