Community & Public Sector Union Thursday 22 October, 2009 EOWW ACT

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Community & Public Sector Union Thursday 22 October, 2009 EOWW ACT Powered By Docstoc
					                                          Community & Public Sector Union
                                              Stephen Jones • National Secretary

Thursday 22 October, 2009

C/ - Health and Human Services Practice, KPMG
10 Shelly Street
Sydney NSW 2000


Dear EOWW Review

   RE: Review of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace
                           Agency Act 1999

The PSU Group of the Community and Public Sector Union (“CPSU”)
represents workers in the Australian Public Service (“APS”), Commonwealth
Government statutory agencies, the ACT Public Service, the Northern
Territory Public Service, Telstra, the telecommunications sector, call centres,
employment services and broadcasting including ABC and SBS.

We welcome the opportunity to comment on the Issues Paper regarding the
Review of Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act 1999.
Significant time has elapsed since the last review of the legislation. Given
recent developments in industrial relations and pay equity it is timely to assess
the effectiveness of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act
(“EOWW Act”) and the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace
Agency (“EOWA”).

The EOWW Act is central to achieving equal employment opportunity, pay
equity and eliminating discrimination against women. These are important
objectives and, despite some progress, Australia still has much work to do in
achieving these goals.
CPSU Submission to the Review of Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act

ACTU Submission
1.   The CPSU has had the benefit of providing input into and reading the
     ACTU submission. The CPSU broadly supports that submission taking
     into account the specific issues below.

CPSU Submission
2.   This submission does not replicate the issues raised in the ACTU
     submission but rather focuses on issues that the CPSU wishes the draw
     specifically to the attention of the Review.

Existing Legislation
3.   The EOWW Act should and be expanded in order allow for EOWA to
     enforce the measures that are already in place.
4.   While it is important to increase the reporting requirements of employers,
     the situation now is that many women to not have access to or benefit
     from the existing protections.
5.   The power to sanction employers who not comply with EOWW Act,
     including the reporting requirements under the Act, must be increased.
     The current system does not provide enough of a deterrent for
     organisations. Implementing fines, legal sanctions, compulsory education
     and training and exclusion from government contracts should be
6.   The coverage of the Act should be expanded to include the public sector
     and require public sector organisation to report on the same
     requirements as the private sector. However this reporting must only be
     in addition to the information public sector agencies currently report to
     government– eg State of Service reports.

Complimentary Strategies
7.   The discussion paper raises the issue of the role of organisations in
     responding to barriers to women’s employment. Improving and
     expanding the EOWW Act to include a focus on complimentary
     strategies and detailing steps organisations can take to improve
     women’s equality ion the workplace would assist.
8.   An expansion of the educative role of EOWA and the reporting criteria is
     a key way to encourage companies to implement programs advancing
     women, and must be considered.
9.   The EOWA Employer of Choice program has proved to be an incentive
     for some organisations to implement their own strategies to help women.
     Increasing the requirements of this award and legislating for a broader
     range of reporting requirements would be a clear way to encourage
     organisations to develop their own strategies.

CPSU Submission to the Review of Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act

10. Consideration needs to be given to mechanisms to ensure that
    organisations do not simply meet the minimum requirements to achieve
    recognition but are encouraged to adopt innovative policies and

The Future of EOWA
11. EOWA must continue to play an important role enforcing the EOWW Act,
    as well as performing other roles such as research, data analysis and
    education. EOWA should also remain a statutory authority allowing its
    director and staff to operate independently and give frank and fearless
12. The position of the agency within the Australian Public Service should be
    elevated. The ACTU recommendation to move EOWA to Fairwork
    Australia is one option. Another option is that EOWA and Office for
    Women are both moved to either Prime Minister and Cabinet or the
    Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. This
    would place women’s issues at the forefront of the national agenda.

13. The limited amount of research and data available on the situation of
    Australian women in modern workplaces is concerning.
14. Increasing the mandate under the legislation and providing the resources
    to EOWA to conduct more comprehensive research and data collection
    is a key step to rectifying this problem. Another consideration is whether
    the Australian Workplace Industrial Relations Survey (AWIRS) is
    reintroduced as a regular longitudinal source of information about
    Australian workers. The survey will need some change to adequately
    collect the information required.

15. Improving the legislation is only part of the answer. For the system to be
    effective, the legislation must be overseen and enforced by a properly
    funded and resourced regulator. The Sex Discrimination Commissioner,
    Elizabeth Broderick, recently commented that although she had statutory
    powers to bring pay equity cases, she lacked the resources and
    therefore could not bring the claims1.
16. The government agency tasked with improving equal opportunities
    should not face the same prospect. The agency must be appropriately
    resourced and funded.

 As quoted in Workplace Express ‘We have the power to address equal pay, but lack resources: Sex
Discrimination Commissioner’ 1 September 2009

CPSU Submission to the Review of Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act

17. The Terms of Reference contain consideration of “opportunities to
    reduce the cost of existing regulation”. It is not clear whether this is
    referring to costs to the government or costs to employers. If it is
    referring to government funding for application of the legislation, whilst
    the CPSU does not support the misuse or misapplication of public
    funding, in the absence of claims of misuse or misapplication, reducing
    costs should not be an objective in itself. The question for this Review
    must be how the legislation and the agency tasked with administering
    that legislation be best placed to achieve its outcome; it should not be
    how can the current costs be reduced.
18. If the Terms of Reference are referring to the cost of regulation on
    reporting organisations, it is important that the legislation does not
    impose a significant financial burden on organisations. However cost
    should not be the main factor when deciding to implement new reporting
    requirements or extending the coverage of the ACT.
19. In fact, given the amendments to the legislation and the expanded role
    for the agency that are advocated by the ACTU submission, and
    supported by the CPSU, the Government should be increasing funding to
    this area.

The CPSU has welcomed this opportunity to make a submission to the review
and if there are further questions, the contact person for this submission is Dr
Kristin van Barneveld, Director of Policy and Research on (02) 6220 9664.

Yours sincerely

Stephen Jones
National Secretary


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