a timeline of the 14-year jobs for women campaign
- Setting up the Jobs for Women Action Committee (April 1980)
- Lodging complaints with the Anti-Discrimination Board (21.4.1980)
- Front page of local “Illawarra Mercury” Women take on BHP 22.4.80
- Coldest night of winter, July ’80, camped outside steelworks
- Public meetings Wollongong
- Demonstration through main street Wollongong
- The campaign was taken to Newcastle
- 1980 Equal Opportunity Board have a number of talks, conciliation sessions with BHP / AI&S. At all of these discussions, we insisted that FIA representatives were present along with ourselves. Even though we did not have jobs, we behaved as if they were our union representatives against the company
- End of 1980 (November December) BHP agree to hire the 34 complainants over a four month period, based on when they put their names down for employment
- During this period, after the first group of women were offered jobs, we continued to gather complaints, hoping they would also be included in a further negotiation for jobs.
- 1981 /2 indications that the international steel industry was going into a slump.
- End of 1982, beginning of 1983. Retrenchments. Leading up to this, there were many media articles about the ‘downturn’ in the steel industries internationally.
- We reopen our complaints, which we had left standing because we had feared that some of us would be further discriminated against once we started work. This was a bone of contention and BHP initially argued that these compaints had been dealt with when we got jobs.
- [1983 Labor is elected, the Accord, the Steel Plan, subsidies for BHP]
- It was then that we realised that we would have a full legal battle on our hands, because not only were we complaining about the initial point of discrimination prior to employment, but we were also using another part of the legislation (that also hadn’t been tested) on indirect discrimination, which had occurred at the point of retrenchment. Had we, like the men, received work like the men did soon after they applied, we would have had more years of employment and thus seniority, and would not be looking at being retrenched
- We were also told at that time that we could not run a class action, the reason being that there had been no precedent set, which meant it was difficult to gauge the success of a class action.
- The Equal Opportunity Board counsellor sought legal counsel on our behalf to establish the way forward. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre was also engaged to assist the legal case.
- Getting the right legal representatives in itself was another hurdle. We wanted someone who would agree to take on the concepts of affirmative action, quotas, positive discrimination, backdated seniority, whatever.
- We also had to have money to pay for the ensuing legal case. We knew that BHP had at it’s fingertips the best lawyers in the country. We were obviously at a slight disadvantage.
- We applied for Legal Aid in 1983 and were knocked back 3 times. The first time was because there was no precedent set with regard to the specific laws. The reason there was no precedent set was because the laws had never been tested before! The second knock back indicated that our combined incomes did not warrant legal aid. This was because some of the women’s husbands were working!
- 1984 Court case starts
- 4 days into the hearing, we win legal aid.
- Court case runs for over a year.
- September ‘85
- October ‘86