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Australians rally for equal pay for women

Thousands of people rallied in cities across Australia today in a national protest to demand equal salaries for women, who earn an average of 18 per cent less than their male colleagues.

world Updated: Jun 10, 2010 11:59 IST

Thousands of people rallied in cities across Australia on Thursday in a national protest to demand equal salaries for women, who earn an average of 18 per cent less than their male colleagues.

The marches in state capitals and regional centres were organised by the Australian Services Union, which represents workers in the female-dominated community services sector.

"Women's work is not being properly valued," New South Wales union secretary Sally McManus said in Sydney. "Workers in the community sector are a classic example of a female-dominated industry being underpaid."

The Australian Bureau of Statistics said women earn about 18 per cent less than men across all employment sectors. But McManus said the gap could be as high as 35 per cent in the community sector. In 1969, a government commission ruled that women performing the same work as men should receive the same salary.

The march was also timed to support a case filed this week by the ASU with Fair Work Australia - the national workplace ombudsman - demanding a 25 per cent pay increase for more than 200,000 people who work with children, women's shelters, migrants, or help those with addictions. That would mean an average raise of about 100 Australian dollars ($83) a week.

Union submissions in the case closed on Monday and the federal government and employers will have until August to respond. About 3,000 people gathered in central Sydney and marched through the business district at midday, chanting "What do we want? Equal pay. When do we want it? Now."

Hundreds also marched in the national capital, Canberra, and Melbourne and Adelaide, carrying banners reading: "Support equal pay for equal work," and "Pay up!"

The ASU urged women in workplaces across the country to take an extra 10-minute break on Thursday to reflect on the gender pay gap.