The unseen work of the SDA
By Chris Gazenbeek, Secretary
The SDA and the greater union movement works tirelessly every single day to improve the wages and working conditions of Australian workers.
When you think of your union, what do you imagine? The organisation who negotiates your Agreement? Your area organiser who helped you work out a better roster with your manager? The Shop Steward who attended a meeting with you?
Well the SDA does all that – and much more. There are many larger industrial issues which need to be tackled at a higher level to ensure all Australians benefit from the improvements to their employment.
One example of this is the campaign for paid Family and Domestic Violence leave to be inserted into the NES (National Employment Standards) so it is a minimum benefit for all employees.
Ensuring all workers have access to paid leave is crucial to limiting the impact domestic violence has on Australians’ livelihoods.
With one woman being murdered by a partner or family member each week and coercive control impacting men and women, much more must be done to prevent domestic violence.
Escaping domestic violence isn’t simple. It takes time, money, support and resources to leave.
Ten days paid leave will ensure workers have the financial and job security to:
- find a new place to live;
- pack belongings and relocate;
- attend court hearings; and
- make new childcare arrangements.
While many SDA Negotiated Agreements include provisions for paid Family and Domestic Violence leave, such as: Woolworths, Big W, Kmart, Coles and Officeworks, only a third of employers in Australia provide paid domestic violence leave through their Agreements or Individual Flexibility Arrangements. This is an issue that needs to be dealt with in the Fair Work Act if it was going to apply to a majority of Australian workers.
The campaign for Family and Domestic Violence leave began in 2014, after the ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) made application to the Fair Work Commission to vary all modern awards to include an entitlement for 10 days per year of paid family and domestic leave.
In 2018, the Fair Work Commission decided it was necessary to vary all modern awards to include a new entitlement to 5 five days unpaid Family and Domestic Violence leave.
The Commission accepted the evidence that the provision of paid leave would assist employees experiencing Family and Domestic Violence and would reduce the financial impact of the consequences of violence.
While five days unpaid leave was an improvement, the change did not address the financial impact of domestic violence. Fleeing domestic violence costs an individual, on average, $18,000, so the SDA and Australian Unions called for the issue to be revisited urgently.
In May 2022, after further campaigning from the union movement, the Fair Work Commission issued an in-principle agreement to include paid family domestic violence in modern awards.
This means nearly three million workers will soon have access to paid domestic violence leave if they need to flee domestic violence.
Albanese Government commits to making Domestic Violence leave a right for all workers
Finally, after a Labor Party victory in the May election, the newly elected Albanese Government made a commitment to ensure paid Family and Domestic Violence leave was a priority in new legislation.
In June, new Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations Tony Burke announced that 10 days Family and Domestic Violence leave would be included in the National Employment Standards (NES). This inclusion means a further 8.4 million workers will have access to the provision and it will be a fundamental workplace right just like personal or annual leave.
This is a great win for the union movement and is just one example of the unseen work by the SDA on behalf of members.
Huge outcomes like this can take many years to achieve – we did not achieve wins like the 38 hour week, annual leave or parental leave overnight either. But the SDA and the union movement will continue to work towards defending and improving the working conditions of members for a long time to come.
Support is available
If you’re being impacted by domestic violence, support is available.
For confidential advice, counselling and support services, we encourage you to contact 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732.