Real Jobs - The Fair Pay Rally

09 June 2011
Yesterday on a sunny but cold Sydney day, I headed along to Hyde Park for the ASU's National Day of Action on Fair Pay. Basically, the aim of the campaign is to bring wages on female dominated industries to par with those in male dominated industries, starting with community workers as a test case. Most community workers work in government-funded, independently run organisations - community NGOs - and our wages are far less than government employees or those with comparable skills and experience in other fields. For too many years, there's been a perception that community work is "women's work" and like other women's work, should be done for free, or very little. Now, no one gets into this field to make it rich. But we deserve just compensation.

I've not been feeling too crash hot lately, so I just figured I'd go to the park, show my support and leave, but I got caught up in the moment and ended up joining in the march along Macquarie St to the NSW Parliamentary offices in Governor Macquarie tower (my dear boss, if anyone got too close to bumping me, would act as a human shield and yell "pregnant lady coming through!"). It was such a positive atmosphere. There's some great pics from the day here thanks to Peter Boyle of Green Left Weekly, or alternatively here are a few not-so-great ones from my camera:

Heading off past St Mary's Cathedral...considering the historical religious context of community work, a rather apt setting.

Hey! Get out of the flower beds!

With Jamie Parker, Member for Balmain, who very politely, or at least in a manner befitting a true politician, pretended he remembered meeting me (from the NSW campaign) even though I could tell he didn't really. Fresh from his mammoth filibustering effort, David Shoebridge was there too. Says a lot about the Greens, who actually live up to their words on grassroots community involvement - I'm very proud to be part of this. Didn't see anyone from the other major parties, not even Carmel Tebbutt, who made such a to-do over her concern for the community in the lead up to the election. Oh, I'm not a particularly short woman - he's a very very tall man. Others get photographed with celebrities, I get my photo taken with politicians.

Marching down Macquarie St - parliament wasn't sitting, so we kept going. It's the symbolism, though.

At our final destination - outside the offices of state parliament. Apparently there was a flash mob at this stage - but my feet and all other parts had had enough by now, and I had to bow out.

The march ended on a slightly disconcerting note for me, finishing as it did right next to the office tower where I was a (flourish) account executive for two years. I used to be one of the bemused office workers we marched past yesterday, looking put out by the slight inconvenience of having to wait thirty seconds to cross the road to buy a $9 sandwich and perhaps even slightly thinking "get real jobs". I thought I had a real job. I thought my life was kind of meaningful. I guess it was - for all that I am a socialist, someone has to pay a few taxes to get some money into the income stream - but really. How is it just that someone who has client meetings over design specs earns $65,000 whilst someone who counsels sexual assault survivors at 5am Sunday, or helps refugees (the "real" kind) access medical treatment, or provides transport for the elderly without which they'd be housebound, earns $38,000? Which is how it is.

If you don't think this is okay, please go to the Pay Up website to learn more about how you can help. Fair Work Australia has given interim approval to the wage claim; we're now waiting for the final decision, and for governments to fund the claim. Queensland approved the wage claim some time ago; even the Liberal Government in WA has approved a 25% wage increase for community workers, which is great to see. It would be wonderful if we could get the same support in NSW - let's see how we go.


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