Since its formation in 1927, the ACTU has been the peak trade union body in Australia. It has played the leading role in advocating for, and winning the improvement of working conditions, including on almost every Commonwealth legislative measure concerning employment conditions and trade union regulation. The ACTU has also appeared regularly before the Fair Work Commission and its statutory predecessors, in numerous high-profile test cases, as well as annual national minimum and award wage reviews.
For decades, unions have been instrumental in working to improve gender equality at work and reduce the gender pay gap through collective bargaining, advocating for legislative reform, and running award test cases for equal remuneration and improved conditions such as carers and parental leave. Unions continue to play a pivotal role in improving gender equality in Australian workplaces. For example, the introduction of paid family and domestic violence leave (paid FDV leave) in the National Employment Standards (NES) has come after over a decade of campaigning from the union movement. Since 2010, unions have won paid FDV leave in industrial instruments covering over 6,000 workplaces and 1.2 million workers. Unions also took this campaign beyond the workplace, winning cases in the Fair Work Commission, achieving the inclusion of paid FDV leave in state instruments and legislation, and finally, winning the support of the new Government to include this right in the NES.
The ACTU is Australia’s sole peak body of trade unions, consisting of affiliated unions and State and regional trades and labour councils. There are currently 42 ACTU affiliates who together have over 1.7 million members who are engaged across a broad spectrum of industries and occupations in the public and private sector.
The ACTU welcomes the opportunity to make a submission on the Workplace Gender Equality Amendment (Closing the Gender Pay Gap) Bill 2023 (the Bill) to the Senate Finance and Public Administration Committees. The ACTU is in support of the Bill and commends the reforms it makes to the Workplace Gender Equality Act 2012 (Cth) (WGE Act). The Bill implements important election commitments made by the Australian Labor Party in 2022 to close the gender pay gap at work, including by boosting pay gap transparency and encouraging action to close gender pay gaps within organisations. The Bill also implements the Government’s commitment to implement the recommendations of the 2021 Review of the WGE Act. This submission makes a number of recommendations to strengthen the Bill and achieve the objects of the WGE Act.