NSW pay equity test cases in offing, Qld inquiry gears up


NSW pay equity test cases in offing, Qld inquiry gears up

Three months after the NSW IRC handed down its pay equity principle, three unions are preparing to run test cases around the issue.


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Three months after the NSW IRC handed down its pay equity principle, three unions are preparing to run test cases around the issue.

The principle (see previous story) means unions can bring applications on a case-by-case basis where women covered by awards working in a particular industry feel their work, skills and responsibilities, or the conditions under which their work is performed, are undervalued because they are women. Unions do not have to prove discrimination before they can bring on a case.

The Public Service Association is to run a case based around librarians, and may expand that to take in archivists and technicians.

Senior industrial officer Steve Turner told WorkplaceInfo the PSA had sought legal advice about whether it should proceed with the case for librarians alone, or for all three groups.

He said the latter was probably the logical choice as librarians, archivists and technicians had similar proportions of women workers and similar grades and salaries. While they had been covered by three separate industrial agreements since the early 80s, the union had been negotiating for some time on a common award, dealing with movements through different classification structures.

Librarians were one of the original groups used as a study in Justice Leone Glynn’s pay equity inquiry in 1998. They were compared with geoscientists, a comparison Turner said Justice Glynn wasn’t too happy about. But he said the principle would mean this case would be a work values study, rather than a comparison.

The Health and Research Employees’ Association is also undertaking a test case via a new award application, listed for hearing before a full bench of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission next February.

HREA senior industrial officer Bob Hull told WorkplaceInfo the union was running the case on behalf of 1000 psychologists in the public health system, 75% of whom are women.

Like the PSA, HREA is still taking legal advice on its plan of action, after NSW IRC President Lance Wright indicated the union may need to introduce more evidence to show the psychologists’ work is undervalued.

Hull said the PSA had been working on the new award claim and work value exercise since winning coverage of the psychologists from the PSA in a demarcation dispute that was settled two years ago.

He said the psychologists had received nothing more than standard across-the-board increases for years and unlike many other workers in the public health system they had not had a work value study done, or a restructure. 

The claim for the new three-year award was for a pay increase combined with a new classification structure that would boost psychologists’ pay roughly 30%.

The miscellaneous workers’ union is also undertaking a case, on behalf of child-care workers. Organiser Phil Taylor told WorkplaceInfo the union was ‘definitely considering’ running a test case, most likely focussing on child care workers. The union was taking the proposal to the delegates and members for consideration.

The cases come hot on the heels of recent comments by Tasmanian Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Jocelynne Scutt that action was just as important as principles to put equal pay in women’s pay packets (see previous story). The Labor Council of NSW briefed affiliates after the principle was handed down, and asked them to take responsibility for individual outcomes.

Meanwhile, Queensland’s pay equity inquiry, headed by Commissioner Glenys Fisher (see previous story), kicked off on Monday.

A spokesperson said the Commissioner would be producing an issues paper by the end of October and would then call for written and oral submissions.

Whether the Commission travelled around Queensland to take hearings would depend on the volume of the response, she said.

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