Joining the Pay Up campaign for equal pay are Darlene Cook, Aman-da Elgazzer, Diedre Dowsett, Angela Pollard and Marilyn Schofield from the Community Legal Centre in Lismore.
Joining the Pay Up campaign for equal pay are Darlene Cook, Aman-da Elgazzer, Diedre Dowsett, Angela Pollard and Marilyn Schofield from the Community Legal Centre in Lismore.

Workers pay tribute to Gillard

The Community Legal Centre in Lismore joined a national campaign called ‘Pay Up – No More Lip Service to Equal Pay’ that aims to get workers in the community sector equal pay with their colleagues in the public sector.

Last year Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard made an historic deal with the Australian Services Union (ASU), agreeing to support community sector workers in an equal pay test case with Fair Work Australia. The campaign on Tuesday was about sending postcards and kisses to Ms Gillard.

Katja McPherson has been working as a solicitor with the Community Legal Centre for about two-and-a-half years after working for a big city firm before moving to the region. She said she enjoys the work because it is more rewarding than private practice, but if she was employed by Legal Aid, doing the same work as she is now, she would be paid $20-$25,000 a year more.

“It’s ridiculous that I could walk into another office in Lismore and essentially be doing the same work and earning that much more,” she said.

Katja said that many people in the community sector, including her, were on short term contracts that were dependent on government funding and had very little job security. That means that there is a high staff turnover in the sector as people move on to take higher paid, more secure jobs.

“If we are not properly supported and the service folds and that will just put more pressure on legal aid,” Katja said.

Manager of the Community Legal Centre Angela Pollard said the industry, which includes people working in aged care, disability services and other areas of care, has suffered because it has always been dominated by women.

“There is a history and a culture of us being expected to use our natural womanly caring instincts and to not expect to get paid for it... There wasn’t even an award until the 1980s,” she said.

The test case was lodged on International Women’s Day, March 8, and is expected to run until September.

A similar case was successfully run in Queensland last year and community sector workers received pay increase of up to 30%.


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