On this page: Dr Jocelynne Scutt; Prof. Beth Gaze; Prof. Margaret Thornton;
Pamela Curr; Yvonne Smith; Molly Hadfield; Women's Health in the North;
see also: Equal Pay
Dr Jocelynne Scutt
not so much concerned about the glass ceiling, (because at least if you
have the glass ceiling above you, you can see the sky), but about the
women who have the concrete canopy over them. These are women working
in the factories, working in cleaning jobs where they are being exploited
and where their talents are not being properly recognized and women in
the rag trade, and pieceworkers.
has been union organization of the pieceworkers and the rag trade. This
is one of the good things that has happened. That has come about because
of the women, and a few decent men, in the unions.
of course, there is the whole issue of trafficking. There are women being
used and abused as domestic labour who are not being properly paid. In
the childcare industry, the women are not being properly paid. Women in
nursing still aren't properly paid, women in teaching still aren't properly
paid, and what we have is the ridiculousness of the Federal Government
changing the Sex Discrimination Act to get scholarships for men to get
were decent pay in teaching, men would be in it. When I was at Law School,
most of the women who had come through school with me, went on to become
teachers if they had brains. They were at Teachers' College with men who
did not have brains, because the men who had brains, and some who didn't,
went on to become lawyers and doctors and nuclear physicists and so forth
and so on.
the Teachers' Colleges at that time had one of those negative affirmative
action programs - that is, the ones that are not the proper ones which
allowed people with lesser qualifications, namely men, into Teachers'
Colleges. These men, who got into Teachers College with half the qualifications
that the girls had, have become principals.
a lot of these girls and they were really, really, bright girls. That
problem is not going to be solved by changing the Sex Discrimination Act
to give some men teaching scholarships. The whole issue is going to be
solved by recognizing teaching as valuable as it is, and recognizing all
the contributions that women have made to teaching.
we have a huge job and I think we have gone backward at a rapid rate.
I think there are some really good young women coming up who really do
care about the issues like we do.
same time I think that this notion of individualism has got a very firm
hold. I think that some women in all generations have been seduced by
jobs where they think they are being well paid, rushing around in their
power suits - or whatever is the fashion today.
I must just put a final plug in here. The conference I was at in Thailand
was Women, Gender and Development and I was struck by the fact that women
who were there were from Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, The Phillipines
- those countries in that area. They don't talk about gender like it is
bashed into our brains here, that "Oh, well, men are just as badly off
have women as their central focus, make no mistake about that. The only
relevance they see to gender is that it has to be included, because men
have to change their conduct start and organize themselves, so that women's
contribution can be properly incorporated and recognized and acknowledged.
see that in this way we will advance both women and men and girls and
boys in a really productive way. But they don't have this division that
happens in Australia and, I think, all over the Western world, where gender
is being used as a way of toning down issues about women.
putting down of women, along with racism and disability discrimination,
is essential to the negative differences that exist: where some people
are allowed to have access to all the resources, or a major part of the
resources, and some people are deprived entirely or have very little,
comparatively speaking. I have seen something that Edith Morgan was saying,
and I thought that was what I thought, too.
can only occur through strong political action in redressing the inbalance
of power and resources."
The recent reporting
of Spotlight's offer of two cents an hour to new employees to enter Australian
Workplace Agreements without penalty rates, public holidays or leave loadings
failed to notice one important feature of the story. Spotlight's floor
staff are mainly female.
Unlike the men at the Cowra abattoir, they have not been able to fight
off this challenge through union strength or public campaigning. Instead,
the Prime Minister has expressed satisfaction with this outcome, saying
that it is the intended result of WorkChoices because it is what the economy
Women are a large proportion of low-income earners in Australia and are
disproportionately employed in industries such as retail, clerical and
community services and in part-time and casual work.
We are all familiar with the data on women's under-representation in management,
on boards, and in higher level positions in the workforce. We know that
among the factors involved in this are women's acceptance of primary responsibility
for child care and the persistence of discriminatory practices and stereotypes
in the workplace. This translates into women's concentration in lower
paid segments of the workforce, and means that WorkChoices will have a
disproportionate impact on them, through the process of removing award
conditions and reducing pay.
This will affect not only new employees at Spotlight, but will flow through
to existing employees.
When their protection under existing enterprise bargaining agreements
expires over the next two to three years, they may be offered AWAs on
similar terms to the new employees, and the conditions of the whole Spotlight
workforce will have been reduced.
This employer appears to care very little for quality of service.WorkChoices
has other effects that will have an impact on women's positions in the
workforce, affecting them in all occupational areas.
The privatisation of the details of employment contracts into AWAs will
make it much more difficult to determine whether sex discrimination in
pay practices is occurring either directly, or indirectly through the
use of job classification to isolate women to lower paid classifications.
In a workforce dominated by AWAs, it will be virtually impossible to determine
whether sex discrimination in pay or conditions is occurring. Thus a side
effect of these changes is the demise of structures for equality at work
built up through hard work and campaigning over decades.
t will not be necessary to directly repeal them, they simply cease being
usable. At risk in future are other gains for women.
... see Equal Pay; Forced
It is interesting
looking at the websites, which I have recently been doing. There is all
this rhetoric about how wonderful employers are in terms of diversity,
but then there is this little bit saying how many workers have been -
well, they don't say sacked or retrenched, but 'downsized'.
The Reserve Bank
was interesting, as one example. There were pages of the rhetoric about
diversity and all the things they were doing in terms of work/life balance,
equity, justice, and so on, and then there was a tiny mention of the fact
that the number of employees had been reduced by 50% over the last decade,
but no mention of how 'diversity' was maintained as a result.
I suggest this language
of diversity has actually stifled the language of social justice, of equity
and equality. There is no longer space for words like inequality or discrimination.
They are seen to be too negative. You have to present this very positive
view of an organisation through what might be termed the 'jolly discourse
have a great list of dimensions of identity that they extol. As well as
sex, age, race, etc, they include a extras like: life experience and educational
My favourite is 'personality'.
Can you imagine an employer considering a person's personality that falls
outside the norm as being a 'plus' in terms of workplace diversity?
The history of inequality, exclusion and discrimination is lost in this
morass. It seems to me that diversity has become an absurdity as a workplace
I am generally interested
in the workplace and the sort of rhetoric that prevails to disguise gender
Another current favourite
is 'flexibility'. This is one of the words we find our Prime Minister
using to justify the present workplace reforms. It is dressed up to appear
as though it operated in the interests of women, but it is the flexibility
of the employer's need that is privileged.
It means that a woman
might live out in the Dandenongs and spend two hours travelling to work
for an hour or two, say at Myers at lunchtime, then an hour or two travelling
home. She is home in time to pick up the children from school.
This is seen to be
evidence of an employer's commitment to the 'work/life balance'. In fact,
of course, what is happening through this rhetoric of 'flexibility' is
the move to casual work - employees are paid only when they are needed.
The phrase 'precarious
work' has been used by commentators and critics to capture this phenomenon.
There is no security of employment, no holiday pay or other conditions
associated with full-time work, and the person can be sacked at will.
In the United States at the moment, under federal law, there is only one
guaranteed condition - a minimum wage, presently of $5.15 an hour. Otherwise
there are no protections whatsoever and employees can be sacked at will.
That is the situation
our government wishes to emulate in Australia - by doing away with the
union movement and doing away with protections.
It might also be
noted how moral conservatism is invoked to justify casual work for women.
The point is a tricky one, as flexible work does indeed suit women with
caring responsibilities. However, the conservative argument has no interest
in what is just for women in terms of the conditions of work, but what
is best for 'the family' - understood in traditional 2-parent terms with
a full-time male worker and an ancillary female carer.
By 'choosing' casual
work, she still cares for him and the children. Rather than being confined
behind the white picket fence, 1950s style, women can usefully serve the
economy in times of high demand in accordance with the 'reserve army'
They also support
the economy through increased consumerism. Neoconservative morality is
strongly influenced by the religious right.
between politics and a particular kind of Christian fundamentalism has
been borrowed from the United States by the Howard Government, and is
clearly explicated by Marion Maddox in God under Howard. This morality
is also shaping debates around feminist concerns, such as abortion and
access to IVF, in addition to the entire social agenda.
In April 1996, on
the 4 Corners television program on the Australian Broadcasting
Commission, there was a program about outworkers. These women sewing in
their homes, in Australia, in garages and loungerooms, for $2 an hour.
I couldn't believe
it. I thought
"We've got a basic wage, a minimum wage in this country.
We have industrial laws, and yet here are wrokers in Australia routinely
being underpaid and employers are getting away with it".
I set out to find
out if indeed it was happening.
At the time I was
doing Social Policy and I had to do an essay assignment so I thought I
would combine it with that. That program alerted me to something I hadn't
known could happen in Australia.
So, I spoke to the unions - I spoke to Annie Delaney
from the TCF union, I spoke to the churches and to some groups who had
been involved in investigating this.
Annie said: "We are looking at setting up a community
campaign to work alongside the unions".
I thought about that and I thought "Wow, that would
really be something",
because the more I looked at it, the more I could see that what we had
here was a Third World economy with Third World conditions operating in
our beautiful, wealthy First World economy.
The contradictions were glaring.
So, I came on board with the Fairwear campaign
before it was launched. I was working as a student on placement, getting
it up. Then, after it was launched, as we got a little bit of money, I
started working part-time. Initially I was working 2 days a week, co-ordinating
During that campaign I met a lot of really brave, clever,
wonderful women. It reinforced for me the capacity for people to overcome
adversity. But it also showed up the question of why they should face
I remember standing at a picket one weekend, outside
a factory in Broadmeadows. The factory made shirts and suit for, as it
turned out, people like Jeff Kennett - the right-wing Premier of Victoria.
These women told me they knew of factories where the
women would go to work and find a red dot on their sewing machine, indicating
they hadn't sewed the required amount the day before. This put them on
notice - if retrenchments were happening - they were sacked.
They were also timed when they went to the toilet and
heavily supervised. They told me how they came to work and were told to
do a certain amount of, say, collars. It was something astronomical like
4,000 collars in a day.
They would come to work and find the collars hadn't been
correctly cut. So the women had to recut them. But that wasn't factored
into the time they were allowed. So they would still end up with a red
I realized that it wasn't just outworkers, it was in-factory
workers, working under legal conditions, with all the protections that
should involve, who were still being really badly treated.
I spent five and a half years with the Fairwear
campaign. They were fantastic years. I learnt a lot. I worked with wonderful
people. Annie Delaney was one of the people who really inspired me.
Annie has an incredible energy, a very clear focus and
great integrity. That is the sort of thing you need to take you through
a campaign where you are constantly being asked to do deals - to pass
over things. Because this was what we were asked. This was a hard campaign
for politicians and employers.
In the beginning they denied it was happening. By the
end, they knew they had to acknowledge it. We got state legislation in
the end. We wanted national legislation, we didn't get it.
But in the meantime we fought two successive waves of
Peter Reith trying to undermine workers' conditions. We were at the forefront
of that, and the situation of outworkers was so well known and accepted
that the politicians couldn't go around it.
left school very early and went to a business college, starting work at
fifteen in the office at a big conglomerate company in the city. I transferred
to a subsidiary office in Port Melbourne and really liked it down there.
We had relatively
good working conditions in those times. I didn't start work till 9 o'clock.
I knocked off at about 4.20 pm when the factory did as we had special
buses provided for us, and on top of that we used to get shopping time
off to go into town. Every year we got a bonus, which was equivalent to
about one and a half week's wages. Of course, staff were hard to get during
I needed to get back to work when the children were older, mainly for
financial reasons, and I decided to try a factory. I got a job at Smorgons,
the meat works. It was a terrible job, packing in a meat factory.
The hygiene was appalling;
it was an eye opener. We were packing offal. It was clean on the tables
where we worked, but where we went to get the plastic bags the meat was
packed in wasn't. It was a terrible, dark little shed with holes in the
wall where vermin could enter. The bags would often be on the floor which
was anything but salubrious.
The factory inspectors
knew – they would go in there for a smoke. It wasn't a good job.
There was no way anyone tried to involve the women in the union. I later
found out that it was said around the industry that this company was notorious
for buying off their leading hands and some of their union people –
maybe that also extended to factory inspectors?
I got put off after
a month, they just said on pay day ' you're not coming in next week'.
Perhaps I wasn't fast enough, I don' t know. I didn't agitate. It was
a casual job. The workers there were nearly all migrant women who didn't
speak English so it was hard to know what was going on. Anyway, I didn't
want to go back. It had been an interesting experience.
I heard about a job at the meat employees union, as a secretary. My work
and responsibility extended and I was eventually given the position of
Claims Officer, doing workers' compensation and the smaller disputed industrial
This was very interesting
advocacy work which also gave me the opportunity to visit the workers
in their factory and take educative information to them on the job about
When I first took
on this job, a lot of the workers were dubious about a woman speaking
for them but after a while they liked it. Once there were a couple of
chaps waiting in the union foyer. One was demanding to see the secretary,
not me, about his workers compensation problem, when the other one said,
'no, mate, see her, she's better'.
- A lot of political
talk used to go on in my home. As a child, I think, you are running around
and not really listening, but at the same time things are still sticking
in the back of your mind so when you are older you can compare things.
When I was about 15 or 16 I wanted to be a nurse - because I had cared
for my mother, who died when I was 10 - but I could not pass the exams
because I had never had the schooling. I had to leave school at 13 to
care for my younger sisters, so when I went to the hospital to work they
said 'well, you can't do the exams, but we would like you to work in the
nurses' dining room'.
It was here that
I found that when the lunch was to be put out for the nurses, I had to
put it all on the table, but when it was to be put out for the sisters,
I had to keep it in the oven to have it piping hot to put out in front
of them. I never used to think that was fair. I had a cousin who was a
nurse and she was always complaining about her cold food.
Also, we lived on
the premises. The domestic staff had their quarters and the nursing staff
had their quarters. Through my cousin I became friendly with some of the
nurses. The matron called me into the office. She said 'I can't stop you
from seeing your cousin or your friends, but you must not go to their
quarters, or see them while you are on these premises. I thought that
was a most terrible thing.
All that stayed in my
head for later.
moved to the city to live with my aunt in 1940, who I spent my time with
when we had weekends off work. I was thrown into the factories to work.
That, for me, was a whole new world. I feel now for migrants when they
come here. To me it was just so different. I had never seen anything like
I was working in
a factory making silk stockings. A man was walking up and down with a
watch. I was taking no notice, but at lunchtime I found out what was going
The women said 'hey
you, what do you think you are doing, working fast like that? You will
have us all doing that! That was a time and motion man. Don't let him
see you work like that! The memories of my uncle came back. He used to
say 'They would have us shearing dozens of sheep more if they could, but
we are not going to let them. We are going on strike!'
I thought, 'Oh, this
is what that means'. So, once again childhood memories were coming back
to educate me.
- ... For
example, I was recently invited to meeting at the Trades Centre where
the bank workers were protesting their conditions. These employees, speaking
about their conditions, reminded me of working in the factories back in
the 1950's and 1960's. We were timed when we went to the toilet, but the
tellers now are not even allowed to leave to go to the toilet when they
are working for under five hours. One woman was pregnant. You know what
that means, with the pressure on your bladder.!
The staff, for example,
had to work unpaid overtime if they were interviewing someone applying
for a loan. Also, they had to do these jobs with just a couple of hours
training. It isn't even good for the customers.
Taken from: PEACING
TOGETHER Women's Health in the North
As one woman pointed out, I think it's the second
age where people are so busy working, running children around and surviving,
they don't really have time to get into issues like this. If I was working
and running a family, I wouldn't be here even if I wanted to be. I just
wouldn't have time.
Which brings up another question, replied another
woman. Why is it that we have such an appalling form of work which
forces people to have their heads down and their bums up all the time?
The stresses experienced by people through work over the last ten years
are one of the biggest problems we've got.
This is a fundamental concern within our culture,
again stemming from the balance of power lying with the few.
Yes, was the response, but that's a fault of
the economy, isn't it? So who controls the economy?
The 'economic rationalist' philosophy of governments
was nominated as one of the most significant threats of peace, undoing
past efforts and gains the women had worked so hard for.
We are the inheritors of change that occurred in the
thirties and the sixties. We are in the middle of a revolution of the
most pernicious kind which is trying to undo the culture of peace and
justice put into place by the likes of us. Women's Health in the North
- I had to change jobs often. The slump hit in the sixties,
but there were other slumps. The factories were moving out of Collingwood.
I went to work in a printing factory in Moorabin where they brought in
an enormous machine that did the work of lots and lots of us. Economic
Rationalism hasn't just hit us now. At different times, the economic situation
affects different people in different ways. And, even then, people in
the Progress Association made the effort to work for social justice and
for things for the community.
We were so tired some nights, we couldn't keep awake,
but we still went to the Progress Association meetings. We used to run
dances and picnics and things to get the money to get the things like
the Community Centre or the kindergarten. In those days, land was put
aside, pushed by the Progress Association and similar people, for these
things. It was not just left to developers. We had good councillors. They
knew it was not just a matter of putting up houses. Also, the people moving
in were supportive and progressive.
What worries me today is that areas are developed without
looking at all this first. It is too late when the land is gone. Anyway,
then the Community Centre was built. Then a football ground and tennis
courts. It was quite a big area put aside for community use.
father had been an organizer of the unemployed during the 1930's depression
and I started to learn about the exploitation of workers. When I started
to look at this I realized I knew this from my own experience at work.
For example, we made coats for Inslees. Well, the highest paid worker
in the factory received 4 pounds a week making 4 coats a day, 20 a week.
The factory received 6 pounds a coat and they retailed for 24 pounds each.
I always remember that bit of arithmetic.
It was so wrong.
It offended my sense of fairness - you were lucky if you had a pair of
shoes as a worker. I read Thomas Paine and decided things should be shared.
From each according to his ability, to each according to his need became
my creed. Eileen Capocchi
I came down to the city for work - a job back in the clothing trade -
I boarded from Monday to Friday with a friend and went back to the children
at the weekends. I got a job opposite the Victoria Market at a clothing
We did what they
called Time and Motion there. You had to do a certain amount for
your wage and after that piece rates applied. It suited me fine but I
didn't earn enough to pay my way and pay for the kids. I wasn't quick
enough to do the piecework.
I earned the wage,
8 pounds a week, I paid 4 pound a week, 2 pounds each for their board.
There were clothes and extras and my own board and everything and I was
saving for a divorce at the time. Eileen Capocchi
a friend knew the man who played the accordion at Marios - a restaurant/night
club. She said he would set up an interview for me with the head waiter.
I was going to apply for a job as drink waiter.
I walked to Mario's
in Exhibition Street from work. I introduced myself but he had never heard
of me. Well!
He said, "have you
ever had any experience?" I said "no, but how am I going to get experience
if I don't get experience?" He said, "Well, do you really think you want
to do this? If so, well, you go across the road to London Stores and get
yourself and get yourself a waiter's jacket, a cummerbund, a tie, a shirt,
black skirt, and black shoes. It will cost you about 11 pounds and then
come back we will give you a waitress to walk around after and learn the
ropes for three nights without pay. Then, if you manage it, you have got
I made my own skirt.
This saved a bit.
On the third night
as I was walking in one door into the bar with my empty tray, then out
another door from the bar with my empty tray - around and around with
the empty tray - when a man sitting at the small table I walked around
said, "Excuse me, we are very curious. When are you going to put something
on the tray?"
I got the job. I
worked two or three nights a week and made the extra money I needed for
my needs, working at the factory during the day. It was very tiring but
I did enjoy it. I think the only reason I kept that job was by chance.
Because I went home to the children on the weekends I missed out on the
day when the staff would be lined up and questioned on the prices and
contents of the menu.
I am very much akin
to two of the women in this book as, like them, I also worked in a textile
factory, packing stockings. I became a Shop Steward at the age of 15 years.
I saw speedup and unguarded machinery which caused the death
of a girl.
I did a safety course
at night school for 12 months to help improve safety on the job. I was
involved in many campaigns for reduced working hours - from 44 hours to
35 hours a week.
In 1949 I was sacked
for fighting for an increase in junior wages of 2 shillings and 6 pence
a week. I was blacklisted throughout the trade.
In the same year
I transferred to the Federated Iron Workers Association and got a job
as a process worker for Lightning Zip-Fasteners. I was elected
shop steward and remained there for 37 Years.
Today (1990) women
are represented on union executives, however back in my time, this was
not so. As a shop steward I had great trouble getting co-operation from
the unions on problems facing women in the workforce.
I relied very much
on discussions with the women at work, in the Union of Australian Women
(UAW), and other women's groups, to help me with many of the problems
faced by women at work and at home.
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