|Issue No 37||29 October 1999|
They Fought Them on the Airwaves
By Dr Lucy Taksa
- Workers Online history editor
Radio broadcasts were an important weapon in the long-running struggle for equal pay.
While we celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the struggle for equal pay, we need to also recognise earlier efforts by women during the 1950s. In struggling for equal pay for work of equal value, such activists used the air waves as well as the print media. The following two articles appeared in The Lamp in June and September 1957. Both were originally broadcast from Station 2KY. In reminding us of the women who came before us, they inspire us in the continuing struggle.
EQUAL PAY for EQUAL WORK
By MISS A. AUGUSTE, Assistant Secretary, N.S.W. Nurses' Association - Broadcast delivered over 2KY on April 30, 1957
It is my privilege tonight to contribute some reasons as to why women should receive justice in respect of them sharing equally, remuneration, for equal work. I am certain that I do not have to emphasise and stress to you my listeners, the justice of my plea, as I am surethat you will agree that equal rates for equal work done, is not onlyjustifiable but it is essential to our democratic way Of life and thinking. I have no doubt that many of you could place your arguments in favour of equal rates better than I, so I humbly seek, not your attention to agree with me on a matter upon which we already agree, but rather asking for your assistance in bringing this vital matter to fruition.
For many years too few have attempted to do too much for the general benefit of all, and many bare paid the penalty by way of break down in health, nevertheless, the fight must go on and Iappeal to you, to assist our campaign and not just sit back placidlyand say that so and so is doing a good job, you can help in a constructiveway by becoming part of our organisation, and the more assistance we getthe better chance we have of success.
In my position as Assistant General Secretary of theN.S.W. Nurses Association, I can tell you that it has been along established policy of our organisation, to achieve equal rates. Ican assure you that nurses generally, are incensed at the comparatively lowrates of pay offered them. I can assure you that it is a professionthat has been exploited over period of years ... consequently we have torely on you for our assistance, we have to rely on you to attainjustice.
Nurses are told daily by grateful patients thatassistance will be given them on request, but are nurses not self seekers,they aim to serve and you will agree they do this successfully, buttonight on their behalf I seek your support on this matter that consequently willhave the result of giving them some measure of self reliance, of selfdignity, and of self dependance when they are too old to nurse any longer.
There are male nurses in hospitals, those in general hospitals are comparative new comers, but in our mental hospitalsthey have been established since such hospitals were regarded asconvenient to lock up securely, insane persons, where they would be out ofsight and out of mind - forgotten. Many of the improvements apparent inour Mental Hospitals today are the direct result f moves initiatedin the first instance by the Mental Nurses themselves.
The rates paid to male general and mental nurses are inkeeping with general principles adopted, i.e., they are much higher than those paid to their female counterparts. In addition wherethey live in hospitals the rate of board and lodging paid by both is identical,this I suggest to you is a blatant example of inequality -- Yet here wehave the undeniable situation of equal work being performed with a depressedfemale rate. This did not and does not deter the female nurses fromfighting with the male nurses for better conditions for their patients andwhatever the outcome in our campaign they will continue their fightto improve such conditions.
If time permitted I could tell you of many things thatnurses do and have done for their patients, if you have been inhospitals you probably have knowledge of some of them, if you have notI can assure you that such is fact --done always in a quiet andunassuming fashion.In conclusion and at the risk of boring you withrepetitive statements I appeal again to you for assistance not onlyfor nurses to receive equal pay but for women generally.
EQUAL PAY FOR EQUAL VALUEBy Miss BESSIE IRVINE, S.R.N. (Industrial). Broadcast front Station 2KY, on June 18th, for theCombined Equal Pay CampaignCommittee
AGAIN I am here to speak on behalf of nurses in thisfight for equal pay for work of equal value. And again I would stress thatwe have not only the interest of our own profession at heart. Nurses arethe people who see others suffer from disabilities, physical, mentaland financial. We also see how the physical and mental ailments of members ofthe community are influenced and worsened by financial stress.
One only of the recent cases to come to my notice I will mention--that of a young woman wrestling with problems of herown, and living in a room with her mother. The mother was a deserted wifewho had been unable to secure maintenance and who had brought up herdaughter without assistance. She is now ill and unable to workfor a few weeks. The daughter on her small wage is trying to pay for rentand food for both, and has been forced to spend her small savings of20 pounds. She fainted at work one morning, and on treating her I learned that she had not been able to buy dinner the night before, nor breakfast that morning. She was not in a fit condition to work but had tocontinue, and her small wage is not enough to provide necessities.
Upkeep for single women whether they haveresponsibilities or not, is the same as for single men in similar circumstances, and there are few these days without responsibilities.Yet, recently we have heard of women in some categoriesof work, where they had equal pay with men in the same jobs, having-had their wages reduced to a "female rate."
One instance is in some sections of the clothing trade. Unbelievable as it may sound this act of"Democracy in Reverse", came about only in May this year. Anotherexample was in some sections of the Shop Assistants' Union in November,1955.The arguments we hear against the institution of equalpay seem to spring from fear--the age old fear of change andprogress. Arguments that women will lose femininity and dignity,that they will not obtain employment at higher wages, that men's wages willbe reduced to meet a level in the economy, have no support in fact.
Women can lose nothing by receiving remunerations whichare in keeping with the jobs they do, whatever, that job be.Indeed, they would gain status by being able to live in accordancewith the position, rather than, as at present, having to struggle to keepup appearances.As for the fear that women will not obtain employment,we already hear the great outcry for more women in teachingand nursing professions.
We see men being absorbed more quickly intothese professions--at male rates. Why not make the work moreattractive to women by paying equal rates?I contend that there will always be full employmentwhile there is work to be done--and there will always be need forwomen in the nursing and teaching fields.
As I have been asked to speak mainly from a nurse'spoint of view, I would reiterate that the cost of training or of post-graduate work is the same. for men and women. They each pay the same amount for text and reference books, they each pay the same for board andlodging while in residence in hospital quarters and for hospitalisationand treatment if they become ill, and therefore should receive the sameremuneration for the work they do.Nursing was primarily a women's profession, and therewill always be places, in this profession particularly, wherethe woman's touch and understanding are vitally necessary. It is not the entry of more men into the profession which causes resentment - because there are places where they also are undeniably necessary. It isunfair discrimination that we resent, and we know that largelymen are with us in our fight for fairness.
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Interview: What Price a Just Republic?
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Economics: Who the EFIC are you?
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Unions: Old Habits Die Hard
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Legal: Second Wave: Reith's Non-Right to Strike
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International: Wahid’s New Team
Indonesias new government is blemished by Suharto-era appointees but an advance for reform, says Indonesia’s trade unions.
History: They Fought Them on the Airwaves
Radio broadcasts were an important weapon in the long-running struggle for equal pay.
Satire: Revealed: SOCOG Reserving Gold Medals for Tattersalls
The scandal over the secret allotment of premium tickets for the 2000 Olympics escalated today with the news that members of Sydney’s elite Tattersall’s Club will receive Gold Medals without actually competing.
Review: What The Age Wouldn’t Print
Some time before Monday 18 October, Age editor Michael Gawenda saw red and then got out his blue pencil. An article, heavily critical of Robert Manne, written by Overland editor Ian Syson, was pulled by Gawenda.
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