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By Sue Dunlevy
The Daily Telegraph
June 04, 2009 12:01am

MALE trade union leaders – many of whom are Catholic – are holding back female wages because of their conservative views on the role of women.

A submission to the House of Representatives pay equity inquiry claimed male trade union leaders believed in the primacy of the male wage earner and ignored women’s claims for equal pay.

The views are blamed for a 17 per cent pay gap between men and women, The Daily Telegraph reports.

“Some trades unions, administered by mainly male officers, traded off women’s claims for equal pay or maternity leave for wage increases when it came to the crunch in award negotiations,” said the Women into Politics group, which took particular aim at the NSW Teachers Federation.

“Even professional unions like the NSW Teachers Federation, for over half the last century, accepted female members’ fees while not attempting to address clear issues of equal opportunity and pay,” the group claimed in its submission.

Group deputy president Joan Bielski, an adviser to former NSW education minister Paul Landa, said when she joined the federation in 1951 “the president didn’t believe in equal pay”.

Women teachers got 60 per cent of a male wage, with the same qualifications.

“It was the times but even today some unions such as (the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees) are still paternalistic,” she said.

SDA national secretary Joe de Bruyn, who controls a powerful voting bloc at ALP conferences, is a Catholic who opposes abortion, stem-cell research and lesbians getting access to IVF.

In 2002, he opposed a policy to increase a quota that put women in 30 per cent of winnable seats in the ALP.

But more than half the SDA’s members are women and Mr de Bruyn rejected Ms Bielski’s view.

“That obviously is nonsense, people in the retail industry get equal pay,” he said.

Teachers Federation president Bob Lipscombe said the union won equal pay in the 1960s and it was “grossly unfair” to suggest it hadn’t played a leading role in fighting to end the pay gap.,28323,25584753-5017313,00.html

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