Kath Williams: The Unions and the Fight for Equal Pay

By Zelda D’Aprano | Go to book overview

12
Equal pay for work of
equal value

The 1969 Case decision was for Equal Pay for Equal Work, an outcome which required women to perform and produce exactly the same tasks and quantity of work as men. This was to occur in industries where men predominated and, to avoid paying equal pay, many employers changed the tasks slightly and reclassified the numerous processes women normally carried out depriving vast numbers of women from obtaining wage justice.

The 1969 Case did not produce the benefits hoped for. Hence a different approach was required. The trade union decided to prepare a case for equal pay for work of equal value. That is, though women might perform different tasks from men, the value of women’s work needed to be assessed as equal to that of men’s labour.

One of the great abstract ideas in economics is expressed by the word ‘value’. It does not mean market prices which vary from time to time under the influence of causal accidents or manipulation; nor is it just an historical average of actual prices. Indeed, it is not simply a price, it is something which will explain how prices come to be what they are. But what is it? Where shall I find it? Like all abstract concepts, when you try to pin it down it turns out to be just a word.1 This problem

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