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O’Farrell drags chain on community sector pay rise

THE NSW government will still not say how much it will contribute towards a historic pay rise for mostly female community sector workers, after the federal government committed an extra $1 billion yesterday.

The Premier, Barry O’Farrell, restated his government’s commitment to paying its ”fair share” of the wage rises ordered by Fair Work Australia earlier this year but is yet to commit funds.

The Fair Work Australia decision granted pay rises of between 23 and 45 per cent to 150,000 workers in the community sector, who work in low-paid fields such as disability and family support, youth and social work and aged care. The rises are to be phased in between next December and December 2020.

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, used her address to the NSW Labor conference yesterday to announce an extra $1 billion on top of the $2.1 billion already promised.

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”As our nation’s first female prime minister, it is hard to convey to you in mere words how proud I am of our actions to close the gender pay gap and achieve pay equity for working women,” she said and challenged state governments to say how much they would contribute.

NSW’s liability has been variously estimated between $600 million and $1 billion.

The Victorian government has indicated it will contribute up to $200 million, while Queensland has allocated $419 million over three years, according to the Australian Services Union, which pursued the case.

But Mr O’Farrell said he and other state leaders had been waiting on the federal government to make clear their commitment and how those funds would be distributed. ”We’ve been waiting six months to get a clear indication from the Commonwealth what they’re putting on the table and all state premiers and territory chief ministers will welcome the fact that the Prime Minister’s now put figures on the table,” he said.

No funds were allocated in the 2012-13 state budget for the rises but Mr O’Farrell said the government was committed to funding its ”fair share” and that contingency measures could be put in place.

The state secretary of the Australian Services Union, Sally McManus, said the Premier’s pledge was ”meaningless” until a real dollar figure was mentioned. ”Without the NSW government’s funding, charities and NGOs will be forced to cut services to people with disabilities, the homeless, people with mental illness and victims of domestic violence,” she said.

The federal funding will only be allocated to programs or organisations which are already fully or partially funded by the federal government, with state governments responsible for programs they already fund. In her speech, Ms Gillard outlined what the effect of the wage rise would be for one worker who appeared as a witness in the Fair Work case, a youth worker named Michelle who has degrees in law and youth affairs.

”Today, she is paid just over $50,000 a year,” Ms Gillard said. ”The equal pay decision means that, when fully phased in, Michelle will get a pay rise of almost $18,000 a year.”

About Darin Sullivan (1968 Articles)
President of the Fire Brigade Employees’ Union and a professional firefighter with more than 25 years’ experience. Father of two daughters, he lives and works on the NSW South Coast, Australia. He is a strong advocate for firefighters and emergency service workers with an interest in mental health issues and caring for those around him. He is a Director on the NSW Fire Brigades Death and Disability Super Fund and works with charities including ‘The Movember Foundation’. As a leader and activist he has long been active in the campaign for action on climate change. Now a Station Commander in the fire and rescue service in NSW and has decades of experience fighting fires, both rural and urban. He is passionate about highlighting the impact climate change is having on fire preparedness and fire behaviour in Australia, and the risks associated with inaction on climate change. Darin is also a spokesperson for the Australian Climate Media Centre.
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