February 22, 2024

ENOUGH! We demand safety, equality and respect

United Workers Union women believe we can make real change happen. (Photo credit: UWU)
UWU women are fighting for safety, equality and respect at work, in the home and in the community. 

The union movement has made some real progress towards gender equality, when compared to the bad old days, but there’s still plenty to be done.


UWU’s vision through our Gender Agenda campaign is to strive for gender equality. We’ve come up with demands that we believe will make real change happen.


Gender equality isn’t moving fast enough

On February 27, 2024, the government’s Workplace Gender Equity Agency (WGEA) released figures publicly for the first time on what big businesses pay women compared to men. 


The data shows that there’s an unacceptable gap in over 60 per cent of industries. The WGEA will now release the figures each year to make employers across the economy lift their game.


We’ve come a long way since Australian unions first started campaigning for equal pay for women way back in the 19th century, when tailoresses in Melbourne walked off the job in 1882. 


Zelda D'Aprano was a unionist who fought for equal pay for women (Photo credit: National Library)

Equal pay was first officially recognized in 1969 when Zelda d’Aprano chained herself to the courts to demand it, and we’ve seen some improvement. But the gender pay gap is stubborn.



Caring, cleaning, and educating are fields that are dominated by women workers. Unfortunately, this type of work has been undervalued. It’s time to change this.


We demand change


Over her lifetime, a woman is twice as likely (53%) to face harassment and assault than a man (25%). One woman per week is likely to be murdered by a current or former partner. The streets at night are still a source of fear for many women. Abortion is still not safe or accessible for many women in Australia. The statistics are horrific. 


We demand safety.


Many older women retire in poverty. The gap between the average man’s superannuation at retirement and a woman’s is about 30 per cent. This is largely to do with child-rearing responsibilities as well as reduced working hours later in life to care for elderly parents. During the key years of saving for retirement, a woman is likely to leave the workforce due to menopause, 7 years earlier than a man

We demand equality.


When a woman starts a family, she’s taken out of the workforce – sometimes for several years. Women do an unfair share of unpaid labour in the home. According to government data, mothers do double the hours that men do when it comes to household chores and caring responsibilities. 


Unions have fought for increases to parental leave, high quality, low cost childcare, and family-friendly, flexible workplaces, but the fact remains that workplaces were built for men – and they need to change.  


We demand respect.
This is what we’ve won so far by uniting in the fight for change
What we’ve won so far
  • 26 weeks paid parental leave 
  • New bargaining laws for care sector workers to win better pay
  • New making employers more accountable for sexual discrimination and harassment 
  • Expanded anti-discrimination laws  
  • Giving Fair Work Commission equal remuneration powers  
  • Rights to flexible work and extended unpaid parental leave  
  • 10 days of family and domestic violence leave 

Women in Australia have a proud history of fighting for our rights through union action. We’ve made huge strides. But we’ve still got a long way to go before every woman in Australia is safe, equal and respected.


The pay gap is just the tip of the iceberg


The brave women behind the Respect@Work report and the #MeToo movement created more awareness around gender discrimination in the workplace, but there’s still a lot of work to be done for women to feel equal at work, in the home, and beyond.

So-called traditional women’s work, paid or unpaid, is undervalued and not shared equally between genders. A woman’s health and wealth is too often tied to a male partner.

The fight for equality is unfinished business, and winning it is everyone’s responsibility – because we know that when we stand together we can overcome any obstacle and every injustice.

UWU is urging all our members and supporters to get on board our Gender Agenda campaign as we harness our collective power to make our workplaces, our homes and our community fair and just for every person in this country. And of course, if you’re not a union member it is time to join and help build our power to win real change. 

Women retire with less superannuation than men, meaning they often retire in poverty (Photo credit: UWU)

This is what we’re still fighting for 

  • STOP discrimination, sexual harassment and gender-based violence at work
  • END non-disclosure agreements that silence victim-survivors of gendered violence
  • PROVIDE universal access to safe, fully funded abortions in every part of Australia


  • Pay justice for all women
  • End to superannuation inequality
  • Make the minimum wage a living wage
  • Increase income support for single parents and women not currently in paid work
  • A fair share of household work for all genders


  • Universal, fully funded, quality early childhood education and care by professionally-paid early childhood educators
  • Family-friendly workplaces with 52 weeks paid parental leave and extra measures to support shared care of
  • 12 days reproductive leave to support workers through menstruation, menopause, IVF and medical conditions and procedures related to the reproductive system.

Stand with us in the fight for gender equality.


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