Media Release by The Hon Julie Collins MP

Pay rates for Queensland community services workers further protected by Gillard Government

Joint Media Release with:

  • The Hon Bill Shorten MP
    Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
    Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation

    The Hon Julie Collins MP
    Minister for Community Services
    Minister for the Status of Women

Hundreds of Queensland social and community services (SACS) workers will benefit from having the value of their real wages preserved thanks to the Gillard Government.

Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Bill Shorten and the Minister for Community Services, Julie Collins, today announced the Government has provided certainty for Queensland SACS employees and employers who will not immediately receive the benefit of the historic FWA equal pay ruling, including those working with people with disability, counselling families in crisis, running homeless shelters and working with victims of domestic violence or sexual assault.

The historic Fair Work Australia (FWA) equal remuneration case earlier this year granted 150,000 SACS workers, including 120,000 women, whose terms and conditions of employment are covered by the SACS modern award, pay rises of between 23 and 45 per cent, phased in over eight years, commencing on 1 December 2012. In addition, workers will receive the benefit of minimum wage increases awarded by FWA as part of annual minimum wage reviews.

However the FWA ruling did not provide for immediate pay increases for employees whose minimum terms and conditions are set by what is known as a transitional pay equity order (TPEO).

The terms and conditions of TPEOs have remained unchanged since the creation of the national workplace relations system on 1 January 2010. TPEOs were created at this time to reflect the higher rates of pay provided to workers in Queensland as a result of the pay equity decision in that state in 2009. This means workers covered by a TPEO are currently not entitled to minimum wage increases because FWA does not have the power to adjust the TPEO rates.

Under the regulation announced today workers whose minimum terms and conditions are set through a TPEO will be entitled to pay increases from 1 December 2012 . The pay increases reflect Queensland minimum wage increases awarded in 2010, 2011 and 2012. These workers will also be entitled to future Fair Work Australia annual wage adjustments from 1 July 2013 until 2020, which is the end of the eight year phase in period for wage increases paid under the FWA equal pay ruling.

“The new regulations will provide certainty and fairness for a group of Queensland SACS workers and their employers who will not receive immediate pay increases under the FWA SACS equal remuneration ruling and would not otherwise receive annual wage increases,” Mr Shorten said.

“The regulations address the fact that some workers in the Queensland SACS sector would not otherwise receive the benefit of minimum wage increases due to the particular nature of their industrial instruments”.

The regulations include a sunset clause to ensure, as far as possible, consistency of treatment for SACS modern award covered employees in all states from 1 December 2020, which is the end of the phasing in period for pay rises flowing from FWA’s equal pay ruling.

“The Government has consulted with peak SACS representative groups in Queensland on this proposal including the Australian Community Service Employers Association, the Queensland Council of Community Services and the Australian Services Union,” Mr Shorten said.

Ms Collins said the Australian Government would continue to look after the interests of Queensland workers.

“We want to give workers in a sector feeling the effects of the attacks and cutbacks of the Queensland Campbell Newman Government some peace of mind that they will be looked after”, Ms Collins said.

The regulations also give FWA the discretion to provide annual wage increases to other Queensland workers covered by a TPEO, including disability support workers, dental assistants and children’s services workers.

This will bring these instruments into line with other transitional instruments where FWA has the discretion to apply annual wage review increases.

The regulations were developed in consultation with the Australian Services Union and peak representatives of affected employers including Jobs Australia, the Queensland Council of Community Services and the Australian Community Service Employers Association.

The Government acknowledges the support for the Regulations amongst the SACS representatives.

These regulations are in addition to the legislation establishing the Social and Community Services Pay Equity Special Account, which was recently passed by the Australian Parliament.

The special account legislation confirms the Australian Government will contribute $2.8 billion to pay its share of the FWA pay rises. The Government is pleased to announce its commitment to fund its share of the entitlements provided in this regulation through the Social and Community Services Pay Equity Special Account