Women in Victoria are to receive a dramatic pay increase after a land mark decision by Fair Work Australia.
It is a decision that has been met with mixed responses from the business community, but Fair Work Australia has delivered Victorian professionals in the female-dominated community sector a $1.1 billion pay rise.
Plans to increase the pay of carers, social workers and children protection workers between 19 and 41 per cent over eight years were made public on Wednesday (February 2) this week.
Lisa Darmanin, assistant secretary of the Australian Services Union (ASU), said the campaign to improve the paying conditions of more than 150,000 was no easy feat but well worth the tribunal's landmark ruling.
"This is certainly an historical day for the equal pay campaign in Australia and it’s a win for women working in Victoria and right across Australia.
"We are extremely pleased at the decision and it is vindication of our campaign."
The ASU lodged a test case for equal remuneration with Fair Work Australia in May 2011 and it comes on the back of a 2009 decision by Queensland's Industrial Relations Commission to boost award wages.
In an official document Fair Work Australia said that simply adopting the pay rates of the sunshine state's equal pay decision may not be appropriate, but this does not mean that gender did not play an important role in the case.
"We consider gender has been important in creating the gap between pay in the SACS industry and pay in comparable state and local government employment," a representative for Fair Work Australia said.
Further investigations will take place into what the tribunal refers to as the "gender undervaluation" of work within the social, community, home care and disability services industry.
But the pay increase will take immediate effect for some individuals, with the first additions due to begin on December 1, 2012.
Prime minister and minister for employment and workplace relations Julia Gillard said the equal pay decision was "good for the sector, good for caring workers, good for women, good for families and good for the economy".
Ms Gillard said it was important to value the work of people in "caring" jobs and support structural changes that promote equal pay for women.
Despite the enthusiasm of the prime minister and employees in the community sector the industrial relations decision has been met with some criticism.
In a recent article for Business Spectator (February 2) financial journalist and commentator Alan Kohler said the agreement was not exclusively based on gender and may undermine the industry's future enterprise bargaining power.
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