Transcript by The Hon Julie Collins MP

Fair Work Australia ruling on Social and Community Services Sector Award, Sky News PM Agenda

Program: Sky News

ASHELIGH GILLON: Joining me from more from Hobart is the Community Services Minister, Julie Collins.

Good afternoon to you Julie, you are also the Minister for the Status of Women – how much of a step forward is it for women in this country and do you expect the decision is going to be used as a precedent for similar claims in other female dominated sectors?

JULIE COLLINS: Well this is great news today, it’s great news in terms of gender equity, it’s great news for those people who are being cared for in our community by the community services workers. As you quite rightly pointed out, the majority of workers in the community sector are women and today’s decision is acknowledgment that they had been underpaid for a long period of time simply because they are women. The Government, we are obviously very committed to working with the community sector in relation to this decision today. We have already started some initial discussions, what we want to ensure is that we work with the community sector to ensure the implementation of this decision today goes smoothly and we continue to deliver those vital services by community sector workers in our community.

ASHELIGH GILLON: States and territories will be able to be able to afford this pay increase? They are after all the main employers of these workers, the Federal Government’s chipping in a couple of billion dollars but some of the state governments are already indicating that won’t be enough. Is there any more money in the kitty you have to use to help the states apply – comply with the Fair Work Australia ruling today?

JULIE COLLINS: What we do know is that when it comes to the community sector, the Federal Government funds around 30%, that state and territory governments fund around 30% and that the other 40% comes from fund-raising, from donations and from the corporate sector. We have said we will fund our share, we have said that we will do that. We have eight years of implementation for this pay increase. We also have until the first payment is made in 1 December this year to work with the sector to ensure we get it right in terms of the implementation, as a government we are committed to doing that. We hope the states and territories and also the community sector, who are overwhelmingly supporting this decision today, work with us in good faith to achieve that.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: There won’t be any job losses in the sector as a result of this decision? Because the community sector is going to be facing a higher wage bill itself and that’s of course a sector that isn’t exactly flushed with money. There have been warnings we will see job losses flow as a result.

JULIE COLLINS: What we really want to do is make sure we get the implementation right. We want to ensure that the people that the community services sector are looking after in our community continue to receive those vital services. What we are talking about here is an average disability worker, for instance, receiving a pay rise over the eight years of around $6,800. And we are talking about, say an alcohol and drug counsellor, receiving a pay rise over eight years of around $19,000. So they are phased in over a period of time. We have from now to 1 December to work with state and territory governments and to work with the sector to make sure we get this implementation phase right. We want to do that in a way that ensures these services continue to be delivered to the sector, we also obviously have ways in which we can work with the sector in terms of increased efficiencies and in terms of reducing red tape to actually make their burden a little bit lighter and we certainly are keen to do that.

ASHLEIGH GILLON: Appreciate your time with us this afternoon on PM Agenda.

JULIE COLLINS: Thanks so much for that.