MID YEAR UPDATE: Working Women’s Centre Recovers half a million for working women

The Working Women’s Centre has been hard at work, navigating the changing industrial relations reality and fearlessly advocating and acting for workers in South Australia.

In that vain, we are thrilled to announce that in the last financial year (19/20 FY) we recovered $512,199.23 in stolen wages, compensation, penalties, and lost income for working women.

We have operated uninterrupted throughout the pandemic and have played a pivotal role in advising working women through its drastic and often tragic outcomes. As we know, this pandemic has hit women and young workers the hardest.

While our workplaces have changed, the issues affecting women have not. We still deal with a variety of issues, including but not limited to wage theft, sexual harassment, all forms of discrimination in the workplace, dismissals, redundancy, workplace rights discrimination, workplace bullying, disciplinary proceedings and everything in between.

Our focus is always on building the industrial knowledge of working women and working toward systemic change to ensure the equal participation of women in the workforce and our community. As a part of this focus, we provide a representative service to women and vulnerable workers and assertively pursue injustices on their behalf with care, accuracy, and professionalism.

While our impact should not just be measured in terms of litigation recovery, putting money (half a million dollars, to say the least) back into the pockets of working women, who often work in insecure, lowly-paid industries and subject to gruelling mistreatment, is a major achievement for us. Of course, there is much more to do.

We are in the process of recruiting a Youth Project Officer to do COVID-19 response work focussing on the enhancement of young women’s pathways to work and education. We will be working with the youth sector, policy makers and decision makers to work towards a recovery that prioritises young women. We will keep you updated on our progress and thank the South Australian Department of Human Services for funding this crucial work.

Like many of you, we are using online tools to reach workers and get our message out. You may have tuned in to our recent webinars, Working from Home: Risks and Rewards and Your Rights at Work: International Students.

Our next webinar will be on Wednesday, 12 August 2020 and we will be discussing the Criminalisation of Wage Theft in South Australia. Stay tuned for further details.

As always, we continue to offer a range of workplace training options but most recently Cass, our Training Officer, has developed COVID-19 response training sessions that tackle common issues like working from home successfully and safely, team cohesion and employer OHS obligations. Importantly, these sessions can be delivered online.

In the next year we will focus our attention on supporting and working towards the realisation of the recommendations in the Respect @ Work: National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces report and tackling the incessant issue of precarious work. Slowly but surely, workplace conditions have been brutalised to the point that many women, in particular young women, do not expect to be employed in ongoing, secure work with a living wage. We have always known that work insecurity is bad for workers and our communities and to this end, precarious work has become the Achilles heel in fighting this pandemic.

We have a busy year ahead of us. It is now more important than ever to re-imagine how we work, how women work and to drive a policy agenda that is going to have lasting effects on the lives of working women. The unimaginable has become possible and it is important that our workplace conditions are not sold off to the highest bidder.

We receive many requests to volunteer throughout the year, and we are starting to put together a volunteer program, and soon we will be in a position to host passionate volunteers. Of course, you can always donate by following the link. Any donation you make is tax deductible.

Thank you for taking the time to read our update.

In Solidarity

Abbey Kendall
Working Women’s Centre