Kath Williams: The Unions and the Fight for Equal Pay

By Zelda D’Aprano | Go to book overview

10
The ACTU changes policy: from urging legislation
to preparing a claim for equal pay

By the end of 1966, the combined efforts of the unions and equal pay committees had produced a number of successes, more frequently within the professions and the organised workforce. Some Labor State governments began to phase in equal pay for several categories of female employees from the late 1950s, but Liberal Governments, both Commonwealth and State, would not introduce equal pay in their Public Services. These governments constantly suggested that unions should seek equal pay through the Arbitration Commission, but the ACTU would not take up this suggestion having resolved, in 1964, ‘that the unions be advised that ACTU policy is to continue the campaign for the Government to legislate relating to Equal Pay and this precludes the ACTU at this stage, from taking a major case to the Commission for Equal Pay’.1

The many years of campaigning for equal pay, and the continual passing of responsibility from the Arbitration Commission and Wage Tribunals to governments and back over the provision of equal pay became a game played out in almost every wage tribunal. It was obvious that these institutions were not prepared to oppose governments. All members of such commissions and tribunals are beholden to governments for their livelihood, and history reveals their unwillingness to set a precedent. The entire situation was a farcical exercise where

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