A New Direction for Gender Equity

Delegates from around Australia join together to set the union's direction on Gender Equity for the next 5 years.

Women teachers across Australia came together for the AEU Federal Women’s Conference to set the direction for the union’s work on gender equity for the next five years.

Delegates attending the conference worked on a new gender equity policy for the union, which will go to the AEU’s Federal Conference in February 2017 for resolution. Arising out of that will be a gender equity plan so that all AEU branches and associated bodies can work on key strategies for improving gender equity for members and students.

“There’s a gap between women and men’s pay but between women and men’s super there’s a chasm,” Senator Jenny McAllister told people attending the conference in reference to her work coming out of the Senate Inquiry into Women’s Economic Security in Retirement. The recommendations are far reaching, because over a working lifetime there are a huge range of policy issues which have an impact on women’s retirement income. For example, with more than 60 percent of recipients of the aged pension being women, it must be seen as a feminist issue. Any cuts to the pension are an attack on women.

Given the fact that women, on average, live longer, retire younger and with half the superannuation of men, Senator McAllister argued that women ought to be organising and seeking to influence all realms of employment and retirement policy. “If you are not thinking about gender, then you’re making your policy with one eye shut,” she said. Unions have a key role to play in ensuring that women receive support to remain in employment when they want to, and have a decent standard of living in retirement.

Conference heard how significant the issue of insecure work is for women. Not only are women more likely to be in insecure work, but even having higher qualifications don’t protect women from insecurity the way it does for men. Panellists discussed the impacts of insecure work, including loss of dignity and negative health consequences. Members of all unions have a role to play in protecting women from insecure work - for teachers, this could include making sure that permanent positions are filled permanently and standing up for temporary and casual teachers. Kath Larkin, from the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, emphasised that insecure work encourages people to see other workers as the problem (such as individuals competing against one another for hours) and this is divisive and undermines the strength of workers. By standing together we can support and protect all teachers.

Picture: NSWTF delegation to the AEU Federal Women’s Conference: from left: Hannah Archer-Lawton, Cathy Anderson, Narelle Hill, Anna Uren, Jennifer Mace, Kylie Dawson, Jen Dive, Terri Quinlan, Annette Bennett

This article first appeared on the website of the NSWTF Branch of the AEU