Equal Remuneration Order: Where to now?

The Union has broadened the basis of our claim for teachers in early childhood services.

Background to the ERO case

Our claim to increase rates of pay for early childhood teachers that was lodged in 2013 seeks to use the powers of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) in relation to equal remuneration orders. The Commission can award equal remuneration for men and women workers performing work of equal or comparable value. A separate claim was lodged by United Voice (UV) and the Australian Education Union (AEU) in relation to Certificate III and Diploma qualified educators and teachers in some other states.

Our case has progressed slowly because of the test case nature of the application.

In late 2015, the FWC handed down its decision on the legal principles relevant to both the IEU and UV/AEU claims. This decision made clear that in equal remuneration cases you had to compare the work of a group of employees of one gender with the work of employees of the opposite gender. You could not simply argue that the work of female employers was underpaid because of reasons related to their gender.

In late 2016, UV lodged a claim asking the FWC to determine that the rates of pay of female Certificate III and Diploma qualified educators should be compared with, and be the same as, the rates of pay of male employees under the Manufacturing Award based only on the award relativities determined by the FWC in 2005. No evidence was called about the nature of the work.

The FWC rejected the UV/AEU approach in February 2018.

IEU claim

In 2017 the IEU had advised the FWC we wished to have our claim determined independently of the UV/AEU claim and we lodged an updated claim. Our evidence and submissions were filed in December 2017. We are comparing the work of female early childhood teachers with male engineers and male primary teachers and seeking the rates of pay that apply to primary teachers in NSW.

Employer evidence was lodged earlier this year in our case and the hearing commenced on 26 July 2018 with hearing dates continuing into September.

However, as indicated above, we have now decided to put an additional claim that the Teachers Modern Award rates, which have a top step of $69,000, do not properly reflect the work value of teachers. Because this is a new argument, the hearing dates that had been set for July - September will be cancelled. A new timetable for the filing of evidence and submissions will be set by the FWC on 30 August and the Union anticipates that hearing dates will now not be scheduled until 2019.

Both arguments will now be heard together by the FWC. Although this has lead to unfortunate delays, the Union hopes that being able to put both cases may increase the ultimate chances of success before the FWC.

The Union thanks all our witnesses who were ready to give evidence in July and August and will now need to wait until next year to have their say.

Carol Matthews
Assistant Secretary