Equal pay case

Weighing the value of women's work

The work of teachers in early learning centres is required to be compared to that of a group of male employees.

In November last year the four member panel of the Fair Work Commission handed down its long awaited decision on principles in the Equal Remuneration Case.

The Equal Remuneration Case was initiated by the IEU, the Australian Education Union (on behalf of early childhood teachers in some other states) and United Voice (on behalf of early childhood educators and some teachers).

The unions are seeking increases in rates of pay for early learning centre employees on the basis that their pay is below that applying to comparable employees because of gender related aspects of the work.

This includes the fact that the work may have been labelled or characterised as ‘female’, the overwhelmingly female nature of the workforce and the nature of the industry, including the number of part time and casual staff and the low rate of enterprise agreements.

Before the case proceeds to the evidence stage, the Commission determined the general principles that have to be made out for a claim to be successful.

Unions must establish that early learning centre employees do not have remuneration equal to that of male employees who perform work of equal or comparable value.

This is a comparative exercise in which the remuneration and the value of the work of, for example, teachers in early learning centres, is required to be compared to that of a group of male employees.

The IEU will therefore need to identify an appropriate male comparator. We will not simply be able to compare the work and pay of early childhood teachers with that of teachers in schools, as teachers in schools are not predominantly male employees.

We will then compare the work value (for example the nature of the work, the qualifications and skills required and the conditions under which the work is performed) and the pay received by each group.

The Union will be consulting with our lawyers about the next step and will keep members up to date.

Carol Matthews
Assistant Secretary