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AWU demands action on Gendered Violence

March 9, 2022

Job security and workplace culture play a crucial role in ending violence against women.

But the Morrison Government has again failed Australian women, this time with its Draft National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032, and the AWU is calling for the plan to be reworked.

AWU National President Marina Chambers says that as it stands, the plan does not specify concrete action that will help end gendered violence.

“The plan completely lacks targets, goals, or outcomes; there is no measure of success, nothing to hold anybody to account. We haven’t even seen the results of the last ten-year plan. What are they hiding?”

AWU members in female-dominated industries such as laundries, food processing, hair and beauty, health care, disability support, and retail, are much more likely to be in insecure, lower-paid work than male members, and are falling further behind.

Meanwhile, the AWU’s female members in male-dominated industries, particularly in mining, have reported unacceptable levels of sexual harassment and assault.

A recent Western Mine Workers Alliance survey finding a shocking one in five FIFO workers in the Pilbara have been physically assaulted at work.

“All members and working women across Australia deserve to be safe, and deserve to be treated fairly and equally at work, yet this so-called plan will do nothing to help them,” Ms Chambers says.

“It’s yet another failure of the Morrison Government to support and protect women.

“Unions have worked hard for workplace equality, and the Government’s inaction is taking us backwards.”

Ms Chambers says a strategy to end violence must include the environment where people spend up to a third of their adult lives. “But this plan completely ignores the role of the workplace in ending gendered violence.”

The AWU’s concerns are echoed in the ACTU’s new Morrison Missing report, which found that under the Morrison Government:

  • Women earn on average $483.30 less a week than men;
  • Women retire on average with about half the amount of super compared to men;
  • Women on average have less control over their hours of work and less job security, and are more likely to have been sacked or have lost hours during the pandemic;
  • 64% have faced sexual harassment at work;

AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton says the Morrison Government should go back to the drawing board.

“Many workers experience violence, inequality, and insecurity on a daily basis,” he says.

“Our members deserve to be safe, respected and equal both at home and in the workplace, but this so-called plan will do nothing to reduce gendered violence in its current form.”

The AWU submission contains a number of recommendations to fix the draft plan, including:

Recommendation 1: Recognise the key roles employers, workers and unions play in creating an environment of respect for women in the workplace and in the broader community.

Recommendation 2: Implement Respect@Work, in particular:

  • A specific prohibition on sexual harassment in the Fair Work Act
  • A new positive duty on employers to take reasonable measures to eliminate sex discrimination, sexual harassment and victimisation
  • Further powers for the Sex Discrimination Commissioner to investigate sexual harassment issues and monitor compliance.

Recommendation 3: Take measures to reduce workplace inequality, including

  • Universal access to a minimum of 10 days paid family and domestic violence leave;
  • Free, universal access to quality early childhood education and care, delivered by highly skilled, properly paid and securely employed educators;
  • Expand and improve Australia’s Paid Parental Leave scheme;
  • Addressing insecure work.

Recommendation 4: The plan should incorporate training for frontline workers to respond to warnings of violence and traumatic events in clients’ lives, to support the mental health of these workers as well as to refer victim-survivors of violence to appropriate support services.

Recommendation 5: The plan should set out a clear strategy to achieve a significant and sustained reduction in violence against women by 2032, with concrete actions, metric, and an evaluation process.

You can read the full submission here.

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