The West Australian, 13 April 2019
Women who earn less than men despite doing a similar job — even if they work for different companies in different industries — will be able to ask WA’s industrial relations umpire for a pay rise, under plans by the McGowan Government.
Six decades after Perth women took to the streets in a Labour Day protest over equal pay, the McGowan Government says it will act on the recommendations in the recently tabled Ritter Report into the State’s industrial relations system.
One of the key recommendations was the development of an equal remuneration principle to underpin wage decisions relating to the public sector and mum-and-dad businesses, which are the main employment sectors governed by the WA Industrial Relations Commission.
The reform, if passed by State Parliament, will give the Industrial Relations Commission the power to address WA’s 23 per cent gender pay gap, which is the worst in the country.
“In practice, this will allow pay to be based on work performed and address situations where, for example, sectors that mostly employ men pay higher wages than sectors that mostly employ women when they’re doing essentially the same job,” UnionsWA secretary Meredith Hammat said.
Supporters of the planned changes point to the stubbornly low pay of childcare workers compared with tradies, despite both going through the same amount of training. They argue the difference is down to the over-representation of women in childcare.
WA Industrial Relations Minister Bill Johnston is aiming to introduce legislation this year.
“The State Industrial Relations Act applies to a very small number in the private sector, public servants and public organisations,” he said. “If you can prove that there is a gender bias, the State Industrial Relations Commission can order that to be overcome. This system is parallel to what is happening in Queensland and similar to the Fair Work Commission.”
The report also sought to provide a framework for the commission to handle cases of workplace bullying, resulting in increased powers for WAIRC inspectors. “The increase in penalties and powers for inspectors will mean better protection for employees and will bring WA workers in line with Federal standards,” Ms Hammat said.