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Fair work rings a death knell for the community sector?

By johnboy 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.

What’s Your opinion?


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40 Responses to
Fair work rings a death knell for the community sector?
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Erg0 1:52 pm 03 Feb 12

Man, those italics are annoying.

Wonder if that worked?

Eby 1:33 pm 03 Feb 12

Jim Jones. I love you.

shadow boxer 1:04 pm 03 Feb 12

Erg0 said :

shadow boxer said :

It’s a tough one this one, child care workers are appalingly underpaid and yet the price of childcare is outrageously high to the point it can suck up one income earners entire salary.

Either childcare operators are getting rich or we need a better system.

I don’t that this decision applies to child care workers – a number of child care centres are run by non-profits, but it’s not a community service as such (they have their own Award). There is a lobbying effort underway to try and improve pay for child care workers (http://bigsteps.org.au/), but it’s separate to this.

No worries, thanks

I told one of my kids not to pursue it, the pay really is appalling.

Erg0 9:40 am 03 Feb 12

shadow boxer said :

It’s a tough one this one, child care workers are appalingly underpaid and yet the price of childcare is outrageously high to the point it can suck up one income earners entire salary.

Either childcare operators are getting rich or we need a better system.

I don’t that this decision applies to child care workers – a number of child care centres are run by non-profits, but it’s not a community service as such (they have their own Award). There is a lobbying effort underway to try and improve pay for child care workers (http://bigsteps.org.au/), but it’s separate to this.

Deref 9:00 am 03 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.

I assume that you’re also proposing that the source of your income and the value of your assets be reduced by 60% at the same time? Care to confirm that?

Or are you just talking about a reduction in incomes (including yours) without a concomitant reduction in asset values? That’s even more fascinating. If that’s the proposal, tell us what you’d do with the millions of people who’d suddenly become homeless and unable to afford to eat.

Or are you just trolling?

Re rorts, there are rorts in the tax-free status of NFPs where “charitable” activities are used as a front for revenue raising for businesses – e.g. religious organisations. Genuine NFP and charitable activities should, of course, be untaxed as should donations to them, but those must to be backed up by audits demonstrating that all the tax-exempt income and donations are used entirely and directly on those activities and not diverted to others or used to push a specific agenda. Other than that, tax ’em up the wazoo.

buzz819 8:19 am 03 Feb 12

I thought the whole reason why tradies get paid so much is because there is a skills shortage, thus they want to retain workers as it is cheaper to pay them more then to train someone new?

Obviously not a factor in the community sector, just like retail, if someone leaves there is always someone who will replace the person.

shadow boxer 8:15 am 03 Feb 12

It’s a tough one this one, child care workers are appalingly underpaid and yet the price of childcare is outrageously high to the point it can suck up one income earners entire salary.

Either childcare operators are getting rich or we need a better system.

LSWCHP 10:35 pm 02 Feb 12

chewy14 said :

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?

People choose employment options for a wide variety of reasons. It’s not just a binary choice between money or job satisfaction.

I’d be willing to bet that there are community sector workers who’d love to be tradespeople but who are hampered by factors such as individual ability, health, wealth, family circumstances or whatever.

dungfungus 7:39 pm 02 Feb 12

NoImRight said :

EvanJames said :

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.

What an unusual use of the term “know so much”. If you dont have a sensible answer just say so.Trying to make me a straw man with some damn fine name calling doesnt actually count.Your references to your mysterious insight into the secretive world of charities and health doesnt either. Hate to break it to you but the usage of the tax system for charities, and Health Depts too, is public knowledge. Did you want to bring up their entitlement to salary sacrifice things like rent payments when most people cant? Or should only those with the secret handshake know that too?

Careful stepping on the wet paint in that corner of yours.

Don’t worry EJ; he has mauled me as well – I have just had a rabies injection to be on the safe side.
I think we should give him another blog name. How about “FIG JAM” which is an acronym for F*ck I’m Good, Just Ask Me.

NoImRight 5:23 pm 02 Feb 12

EvanJames said :

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.

What an unusual use of the term “know so much”. If you dont have a sensible answer just say so.Trying to make me a straw man with some damn fine name calling doesnt actually count.Your references to your mysterious insight into the secretive world of charities and health doesnt either. Hate to break it to you but the usage of the tax system for charities, and Health Depts too, is public knowledge. Did you want to bring up their entitlement to salary sacrifice things like rent payments when most people cant? Or should only those with the secret handshake know that too?

Careful stepping on the wet paint in that corner of yours.

chewy14 4:57 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?

EvanJames 4:39 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.

Jim Jones 4:37 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.

Erg0 4:32 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.

Jim Jones 4:30 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.

NoImRight 4:26 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.

EvanJames 4:19 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.

NoImRight 4:15 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?

Waiting For Godot 3:49 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.

dungfungus 3:32 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.

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