Making fairness a women’s issue, like periods

I’m going to start by sharing a compliment a fabulous colleague gave me yesterday: I’m a one-woman molotov cocktail.

How awesome is that? I think I need to get my cape out of the dress-up box and wear my undies on the outside.

And now, down to business – the equal pay test case at Fair Work Australia. The SMH has their social affairs correspondent, Kirsty Needham, covering the story. She’s been covering the parental leave stories as well. I wonder why Paul Bibby isn’t doing it? He usually covers workplace stories. Is it because the SMH considers equal pay a women’s issue, rather than a workplace one? Anyway, that’s probably me being a bit sensitive. After all, it’s a story I’d put my hand up to cover if it wasn’t in my round.

Being a bleeding-heart leftie, I’ve pulled muscles in my eyes from rolling them at those who get hysterical about having a budget surplus – it just means the Government isn’t spending money on programs and services. So it shits me that a Labor Government values a surplus over equal pay for equal work. But – and I’m sure you’ll be shocked to know this – I also have some quibbles with the way the story is written: Unions’ war cry on equal pay row:

The Prime Minister knew a year ago that government support for a historic equal pay case would cost $4 billion in increased wages if the women won, the female union boss who negotiated the original deal says.

Is it really that important to mention that the union boss is a woman? Is a woman in any position of power still worth commenting on? Sharan Burrow was head of the ACTU for 10 years (finishing up in June this year to head the International Trade Union Confederation), so we’ve had some time to get used to it. If the union boss was a bloke, would the sentence read: “the male union boss who negotiated the original deal”? Of course it wouldn’t. And that’s the problem. With the addition of that one little word, it makes equal pay a women’s issue, and not a workplace issue.

The government costed a wage rise for low-paid female community sector workers – in line with comparable male wages – at $4 billion when Ms Gillard supported the case in October last year, said the Australian Services Union NSW secretary, Sally McManus.

According to Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin, there are over 200,000 people who work in the community sector, and 87 per cent are women. So although the majority are women, this test case isn’t just about women: it’s about the entire community sector being paid fairly for the work they do. And as long as it keeps being reported as a women’s issue, then it can be pushed aside as something that only affects women. As though the fact that we make up more than half the population makes us a niche group.

Update November 24: The SMH has gone for another sexist bullshit headline: I know value of women’s work, upset Gillard says. Gillard said she was “personally offended”. That does not make her “upset”. So why portray her as a silly woman who bursts into tears when someone disagrees with her? Anyone who has seen Question Time knows that this couldn’t be further from the truth. So, question is: are the SMH subs pro-Abbott, or just sexist dickheads?

4 responses to “Making fairness a women’s issue, like periods

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Making fairness a women’s issue, like periods | the news with nipples -- Topsy.com

  2. “Being a bleeding-heart leftie, I’ve pulled muscles in my eyes from rolling them at those who get hysterical about having a budget surplus – it just means the Government isn’t spending money on programs and services. ”

    GOD, YES. I hate that whole ‘ohhh record surplus’ crap. My government is not a business; I do not want them to run at a profit.

    This equal pay test case is pretty interesting. I think the main reason it’s framed as a women’s issue is because the majority of work the community sector does is seen as women’s work. It’s so frustrating.

    • Frances, that’s exactly why it’s framed as a women’s issue. It also means that the issue can be sidelined because ‘oh, we don’t have enough money to give the women a pay rise’. We do have enough money.

      I was so pleased that we got to read stories about parental leave, rather than maternity leave, and now we’re back to this again.

  3. I could have a large rant on this subject, but in the interest of brevity I’ll refer to Adele Horin’s article in this weekends news review which pretty much covers my thoughts. 

    I’ll just say this (course I will): with the ongoing push to outsource community care away from government run services towards the NGO sector, govs save lots of money. This trend isn’t going away. Public servant equivalents of key community workers are paid vastly more. Govs are getting a good deal at the expense of underpaid (female) workers. All they needed to do was stick to their original promise and stump up this extra funding. V disappointed. 

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