Female educators fight for pay parity

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9 September 2016

Thursday September 8th was national Equal Pay Day – this date marks the number of extra days Australian women must work beyond the end of the financial year to earn the same amount as men, based on Australia’s gender pay gap of 16.2%.

This gap is calculated by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency which found that this year it took women an extra 69 days to catch up.

While education is often seen as a female-friendly profession the (WGEA’s) latest research has found there is still a 9 per cent pay gap between average male and female wages in the sector.

Education has a highly feminised workforce; 58% of staff in secondary schools and 80% of staff in primary schools are female. It is also a profession where pay scales are set out in EBAs rather than negotiated by individuals.

While the pay gap in education is smaller than the national average,it still represents a major issue affecting women in education. Despite the strong gains that have been made in recent years we still need to fight against any dilution of the rights of female educators.

For example in NSW earlier this year, the State Education Department announced changes which would could see women who take five years out of teaching return to work at far lower-pay.

The NSWTF has taken up the fight on this issue and in negotiations the Department has agreed to back down on removing service credits for maternity leave but is persisting with no longer recognising childrearing for determining a teacher’s salary. This is a backwards step that members must stand together to fight.

At a federal level the Coalition Government has made several attempts since the 2014 Budget to stop new mothers claiming the government-funded Paid Parental Leave on top of maternity leave provided through their workplace – referring to women who dare to exercise their legal rights to do so as “double dippers”.

This issue particularly effects educators because they are likely to have maternity leave as part of their industrial agreements. If the cuts were implemented it would cost educators up to $11,824 and deny them the choice to spend the first six months with their newborns.

While this still remains Coalition policy, a strong campaign by unions has meant that the measure has never been able to pass the Senate, and women are still able to access both maternity leave payments.

In the education sector the key issue is not that women are paid less for the same job as men, it’s that women are not given the opportunities to get into the better paid and more secure jobs within the profession.

The AEU’s surveys of female members have found that women are significantly less likely to seek out opportunities for promotion than men and cite the difficulty in balancing work and family commitments as a key reason. The 2015 State of Our Schools survey found that at primary school level only 6 per cent of female teachers say they are actively pursuing promotion positions compared to 25 per cent of male teachers.

Anecdotally, women still report they are overlooked for the many small opportunities that eventually lead to a promotion position, such as access to professional development and mentoring.

The growth in temporary teaching contracts is particularly difficult for women with young children, who are not guaranteed a return to work after maternity leave unless they are in a permanent position.

The AEU is committed to Gender Equity because we are committed to a more just society and it is in everyone’s interests if women have the opportunity to take advantage of their ability, and to better balance work and family.

We have fought and won conditions that chip away at the root causes of the Gender Pay Gap and we continue to fight for the right to part-time work after maternity leave, paid maternity and partner leave, support for breastfeeding and equal access to promotion positions for those who choose to pursue them.