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Industrial Rights of Workers in the Sex Industry

Working in the sex industry is just like any other job…but what about the industrial rights other workers have access to? In some states legal workers are covered by industrial relations law. Unfortunately without appropriate anti-discrimination legislation to address discrimination many sex workers do not have equity of access to Industrial Rights. Without legislation, which supports equity of access, risks associated with working in the industry are heightened.

Sex workers are covered by the Miscellaneous Workers Union in each state. It is common for a union to require the worker to be a paid member to receive assistance. However, you should still be able to receive some verbal advice. Unions usually require a number of persons from one industry to join before they can devote a industrial organizer and resources to cover any one industry.

As sex workers we should be entitled to the same industrial rights as the rest of the working community. If you believe you have been underpaid, unfairly dismissed or that your industrial rights have been affected you should contact both your local sex worker organisation where you will be given information on the laws in your particular state and information about where you can get assistance and the contact names and numbers for you to find out your rights. It is also a good idea to keep your sex worker organisation up to date and informed with current trends if you and other workers at your workplace are being ripped off. Also you should call your local Miscellaneous Workers Union for information regarding your industrial rights and how they can help you. Your case may be required to go before the Industrial Rights Commission in which case you may be able to take someone with you (someone from the union or the sex worker org.).

Sex workers in some states are classified as sub contractors or contractors, largely so that owners of sex industry businesses can avoid their industrial responsibilities (super annuation, sick pay, workers comp etc). For this reason it can be difficult for sex workers in some states to prove they have a right to compensation (unfair dismissal etc). However, there are precedents (cases which are taken to court and the court has agreed the person was a employee) set by individual cases which then allow for the possibility of others to receive access to industrial rights.

The Victorian Situation with Legalisation Sheranne Dobinson, Safe House Worker, Prostitutes’ Collective of Victoria This paper questions the gains that Victorian workers in the sex industry are said to have gained by ‘legalisation.’ In particular industrial rights, tax, human and civil rights have failed to be provided for workers and the Victorian model “should be viewed as a lesson in seriously defective policy making and how to avoid it.” Case studies of workers attempting to achieve industrial justice are used.

Address to the Melbourne ICAAP Conference 2001 Sharon Burrows; President ACTU; A populist but pro-human rights approach by the trade union leader. At the time she was the president of the International Congress of Free Trade Unions (Asia Pacific Region). She mentions the effect of work on peoples’ susceptibility to HIV infection and poverty, and “it is vital that these women (sex workers) are seen as being engaged in work and therefore have the same rights as other workers to organise and to expect that their right to health and safety at work are respected.”

Phillipa VS Carmel Industrial Precedent Case, Industrial Court Of Australia. This is an important case because the sex worker was found to be an employee and found to be unfairly dismissed. Phillipa was awarded 8 weeks full pay.

Understanding the employment relationship in the sex industry Sue Ellery (LHMWU) This article explains how the employer - employee relationship is determined when no contract in writing exists. Working illegally or legally, there are rights we all deserve as workers.


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