Debate over womens pay levels in the ACT public service

Thumper 25 February 2010 51

An ACT Greens motion calling for an audit of the salary gap between men and women in the Territory’s public service has sparked a fierce debate in the Legislative Assembly.

The Greens argue many women are disadvantaged because they have to leave the workforce to have children while their male counterparts keep on moving up the pay scale.

Greens leader Meredith Hunter says it is important to scrutinise the pay gap.

I think Ms Hunter maybe missing a rather large and blunt point here, however, I shall let the learned readership discuss this issue.


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51 Responses to Debate over womens pay levels in the ACT public service
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CraigT CraigT 10:40 pm 09 Mar 10

There are two issues here:

1/ Why are the Greens pushing this outdated bit of Feminist Dogma? Doesn’t “Green” imply they should be doing something about the fact that the ACT produces precisely 0% of its power from renewables – worse even than Queensland?

2/ Why are they looking at what people *earn*? Surely what people *spend* would be a far more accurate depiction of any inequalities that exist? Or have they looked at that and decided the answer it gives doesn’t suit their agenda?

SammyLivesHere SammyLivesHere 9:33 pm 09 Mar 10

I think the State of the Public Service report is a good reference for this discussion. Some women are lucky and land on their feet after a break; but they are in the minority – and the report clearly shows women (although achieving high academic standing and with tonnes of work experience) are paid differntly to men.

Time for a review and a survey on perception or fact would not go astray. It would be interesting to know how many APS6 women want an EL1 job but can’t seem to break into that level no matter how hard they have tried.

georgesgenitals georgesgenitals 8:18 am 06 Mar 10

Clown Killer said :

Firstly: “moist in the fork”. That’s gold. Thank you for that.

In my business people get paid what they’re worth: for what they contribute towards the sucess of the company. Regardless of gender.

We will from time to time get some stick from PhD grads. (both male and female) who believe they should be promoted faster or paid more or object to having someone with a bachelors degree and only two years post grad. experience managing them but at the end of the day it boils down to the fact that our people are paid in direct relation to what they contribute – not how long they’ve been there (we have no increment pay rises), or what qualifications they have (you’d be surprised how many people with Masters or PhDs struggle to translate that knowledge into the commercial context). Male, female or otherwise.

Well said. +1.

Scribble Scribble 12:30 pm 02 Mar 10

Looks like the ACTU will attempt to make the general issue of pay disparity part of the upcoming election campaign, arguing that part of the imbalance is because women predominantly work in community service areas that aren’t valued as much as traditional male trades.

smilesr smilesr 10:50 am 02 Mar 10

deejay, you are the exception rather than the rule.

I too kept up my skills by doing freelance work whilst on maternity leave. However upon re-entering my position as part-time rather than fulltime, not only found my juniors had advanced up to my level but also found, due to working part-time, I was treated as “second class” and expendable. I don’t think this was due to my being a working mother, rather that anyone working part-time seems to be thought of as not one with the team. The prevailing attitude is that fulltime work is the No. 1 priority. When anyone does anything less due to any reason they are deemed to be not as committed. And its probably because the majority of women choose to go back part-time so that their child can be eased into fulltime care that accounts for the difference in pay scales.

The way to keep up is to either put the child straight into fulltime childcare as soon as possible, or have a fulltime nanny, or have the partner take on the care.

Clown Killer Clown Killer 9:29 pm 01 Mar 10

Firstly: “moist in the fork”. That’s gold. Thank you for that.

In my business people get paid what they’re worth: for what they contribute towards the sucess of the company. Regardless of gender.

We will from time to time get some stick from PhD grads. (both male and female) who believe they should be promoted faster or paid more or object to having someone with a bachelors degree and only two years post grad. experience managing them but at the end of the day it boils down to the fact that our people are paid in direct relation to what they contribute – not how long they’ve been there (we have no increment pay rises), or what qualifications they have (you’d be surprised how many people with Masters or PhDs struggle to translate that knowledge into the commercial context). Male, female or otherwise.

sepi sepi 9:25 pm 01 Mar 10

One female Exec director does not equality make. Especially if it is so unusual that it has to be remarked upon…

and really – most women take a year off or less, for one or two children. Taking 10 years off is not maternity leave, it is dropping out of the workforce, and people who do that do not generally pop back in and take up where they left off, let alone jump up to where their colleagues have progressed to.

One issue worth thinking about is superannuation – many older women have hardly any. perhaps one day the baby bonus could go towards super, instead of directly to the bank.

youami youami 4:35 pm 01 Mar 10

@neanderthalsis: “moist in the fork”, outstanding! But yes I agree with your other points. I have dealt with many senior female executives both public and private sector. In fact, the Executive Director in the division where I work is female. It is not about equality for equality’s sake but about giving all people (male, female, or hermaphrodites), the ability to win on merit and be rewarded if they stay in the workforce.

neanderthalsis neanderthalsis 2:56 pm 01 Mar 10

miz said :

There are DEFINITELY inequities in my (fed PS) department – not all gender related, though some are, ie, admin jobs are mainly women and once in an admin position it is very hard to be taken seriously even if you subsequently gain qualifications… What we really need is a re-think about what differing models would work for males and females, and whether the public service should perhaps be a better example of diverse employment models.

Inability to move beyond the ranks of the admin types is probably more to do with the Peter Principle than any form of gender discrimination. Whilst not a pube myself, I deal with senior PS on a daily basis, most of them women and more than a few that have risen from the ranks.

As for admin and entry level jobs being predominantly held by females, it is the nature of the sector. The same as the building industry being mostly men. Gender equity is not about have a 50/50 (or whatever ratio)split in numbers just to achieve some arbitrary target that makes politicians or EO folks moist in the fork, it is having the best person in the role regardless of their gender.

youami youami 1:49 pm 01 Mar 10

bd84 said :

The only thing that should be a problem is if a woman is paid less for being in the same or similar position which require the same experience/qualifications. Given in the public service that positions within agencies cannot be easily changed up or down levels, I would be surprised of any instances were found.

Any person that leaves the workforce for a period of time is likely to find that they do not move up the pay scale as fast as they would if they continued working for that period, it is not be restricted to females who have children. Working generally increases your skills and knowledge, promotions and pay rises should be determined on these, it is unreasonable for the Greens to suggest that any one who takes maternity or parental leave should be given a free pass to the next level just because they have children.

This is not true, I am currently paid less than my male counterparts because they have been in the job longer and have gone up in increments yearly :p They also do way less work than me(I calculate the monthly statistics) because their computer skills are low, so in effect I am being paid less to do more.

I don’t really feel sympathy for people who leave work to have kids though, sorry that is your choice. Can’t have your cake and eat it too. It is not just men “picking up the slack” when people go on maternity leave. Not all women can or what to have babies.

Exactly, I agree with you. In the public service (and I assume ACT is like other states and the Federal) that each job is assigned a pay scale. You are in that job you get that pay scale commensurate with your experience, qualifications, etc. regardless of sex. How can pay be different? I just don’t get it. Sure, an increment or performance bonus here and there but seriously, you leave the workforce for a period of time you don’t get the increment! It sounds to me that women (or actually anyone who has not been in the workforce for a long period of time) want to get paid more for doing less. Sorry but get over it.

But as for your comments on your counterparts, are they in the same pay scale as you? Have they been in the job longer than you? I think you will find they have earnt their increment regardless of your perception that they do less -that is such an objective and skewed view.

James-T-Kirk James-T-Kirk 12:47 pm 01 Mar 10

(sigh)

There is a salary gap… It is clearly there for all to see….

That’s why I work in PRIVATE INDUSTRY, where we get a say in what our salary will be. Not have some union ‘representative’ determine it for us.

If I was to leave the workforce for 5 – 10 years to care for my kids, I would fully EXPECT to have a lower salary than the people who stuck at it. That is only natural, as I would be a full 5 or 10 years out of date in my workforce related skills.

Whats the problem? I thought we left the era of time based salary scales behind a long time ago and now we use skills based scales.

deejay deejay 6:56 pm 28 Feb 10

miz, I don’t know of any that have them in their current collective agreements. However, I am aware of several agencies that are still paying them under old AWAs, and some agencies can pay one under supervision of a HR committee if a situation calls for it. In some cases that is easier to get over the line than higher duties.

miz miz 5:32 pm 28 Feb 10

deejay, which departments still have performance bonuses? i would so like to get one of those.

Woody Mann-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 5:31 pm 28 Feb 10

Woody – the fact remains that (all things being equal) a woman who has been out of the workforce for 1+ years caring for a kiddie is not going to be as good at their job as the person who hasn’t had a kiddie and has stayed at work.

Except all things aren’t equal, and never are, so you’re you’re talking out your proverbial. A woman who’s really good at her job – gets superior performance ratings, great feedback – immediately becomes worse at her job than some middling-to-average Kevin Sixpack because she’s away from the office for a whole year? Whatever. And even if she is worse, or was worse to begin with, so what? We’re not a workforce of identical soldier ants. There’s always going to be some people who perform better than others.

What are you suggesting? That women who have kids should receive increments/promotions they’re not there to earn?

I didn’t suggest anything of the sort, though it was a revealing insight into your sexism.

deejay deejay 1:05 pm 28 Feb 10

Oh, please.

I am 35, and an EL1 and getting a performance bonus that puts me into the EL2 pay bracket. Do you know how long I was out of the workforce raising children? Eight years. I was never penalised. I certainly earned what I’ve gotten since I returned, and I did keep my skills up in unconventional ways (various types of freelance work and honorary work), but you can’t tell me I’m earning less than most childless 35yo women or men in the APS.

WanniAss WanniAss 11:29 pm 27 Feb 10

Maybe the greens can pass a law that allows men to have babies. That would help address the issue

Mr_Shab Mr_Shab 10:30 pm 27 Feb 10

Woody – the fact remains that (all things being equal) a woman who has been out of the workforce for 1+ years caring for a kiddie is not going to be as good at their job as the person who hasn’t had a kiddie and has stayed at work.

What are you suggesting? That women who have kids should receive increments/promotions they’re not there to earn? All well and good, but what boss in their right mind is going to hire women of child bearing age?

Also, when a woman returns from a long stint away, is it reasonable to assume that they’ll return at full capacity; that they won’t have some period of readjustment to the workforce?

I’m not sure future earnings are the main concern of couples when they choose to sprog up.

Ms Hunter can do all the scrutinising she wants. Till there’s a real solution, it’s a waste of time and money.

That said; there is a solution – that being that men and women take an equitable role in off-work childcare. Dare I suggest that (for all kinds of reasons) many women may not be so keen on relinquishing that role?

miz miz 10:19 pm 27 Feb 10

There are DEFINITELY inequities in my (fed PS) department – not all gender related, though some are, ie, admin jobs are mainly women and once in an admin position it is very hard to be taken seriously even if you subsequently gain qualifications. (There is also a MAJOR inequity to do with the way legal officers jump increments every year if they have a ‘positive’ performance review, whereas policy officers who are doing the same work have to actually ‘win’ their promotion via a recruitment round (and there have not been many of those lately).

And if I can just point out this article, which many of you seem to have not recalled?

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/time-out-for-babies-a-career-killer/1248732.aspx

So Ms Hunter is definitely onto something and it’s too simplistic to say it’s all about taking mat leave. Essentially, as long as the employment ‘ideal’ is a male worker – either single, or with a partner who does most of childcare/household responsibilities – women don’t stand a chance. What we really need is a re-think about what differing models would work for males and females, and whether the public service should perhaps be a better example of diverse employment models.

JC JC 9:11 pm 27 Feb 10

Sepi not quite right with the bit having to work for 12 months to get an increment. About 10 years ago that might have been the case, but with the introduction of performance management in the APS this changed. The two departments I have worked for have both had rules that all increments occur on 1st July and to be considered for an increment you had to have been doing that job for 3 months. So if I got promoted to position on 31st March I would be entitled to an increment, provided performance has been meet, but if I got promoted on 1st April I wouldn’t be entitled.

Now getting back to this bullshit, being away from work for what ever reason is a choice and all choices have a consequence. If I as a male choose to take leave without pay for 1 year to look after a new born I would have no expectation that on return that I would get an increment and clearly I would be behind my colleagues who stayed working. This is not an inequity that needs to be rectified, it was my choice.

vg vg 8:52 pm 27 Feb 10

I met Hunter once and thought she was an idiot, but maybe that was just a first impression.

This demonstrates that my intuition may well be spot on

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