31 August is Equal Pay Day nationally, and 6 September in Queensland

Queensland Unions say the federal government’s policies are widening the gap between the average pay of men and women.

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures now show the difference between women’s and men’s average weekly full-time equivalent earnings has increased in 2021, with a national gap of 14.2 per cent – or $261.50 per week – in favour of men.

Unions and other organisations are observing Equal Pay Day today – 31 August – marking the 61 additional days from the end of the previous financial year that women must work to earn the same pay as men.

In Queensland, ABS figures show the gap is even greater, with women having to work another six days to reach the same pay as men.

Queensland Council of Unions Assistant General Secretary Jacqueline King said while wages in construction and mining – both heavily male-dominated – had grown, other professions that were at the front line of fighting COVID were struggling to achieve pay fairness.

“The Morrison government pumped billions into keeping the construction industry afloat but turns its back on workers in health care, retail and the community sector, industries where there are more women than men.

“It abandoned casual workers when it went to the High Court to remove the rights of casuals to move into permanent and more secure employment, and gave more power to businesses to keep wages low and cut conditions.

“The federal government has refused to adequately address barriers that limit women’s participation in the workforce, such as by reducing excessive childcare costs.

“It is also dragging its feet on improving Australia’s sexual harassment laws and ensuring that everyone has access to at least ten days of paid domestic and family leave if needed.

“This federal government has no appetite for making women’s jobs more secure and our income more reliable,” she said.

“Even in industries like health care and social assistance in the community sector, there is a full-time pay gap favouring male workers.”

In 2020, Equal Pay Day was observed on 29 August so the gender pay gap is actually widening.

In Queensland, average male earnings of $1751.50 per week compared with average female weekly earnings of $1479.20, show a difference of $272.30 or 15.5 per cent. That makes 6 September the Equal Pay Day in Queensland.

Ms King said unions are always at the forefront of the fight for equal pay.

“The one thing that all workers can do to improve their pay is to join their union. We know the wages of the unionised workforce is higher than non-unionised workplaces,” she said. 

ABS figures back up this claim: “The median weekly earnings of trade union members are 31.8 per cent higher than those of non-union workers… and employees who are trade union members in their main job had median weekly earnings of $1450 in August 2020, compared to $1100 for non-union workers.”

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