The Australian women’s soccer team has taken unprecedented strike action to demand improved pay – and basic respect.
The whole team walked out of their training camp and is refusing to tour to play against the world champion US team. None of the players have been paid a cent since their previous collective bargaining agreement ended in June.
The Professional Footballers Association, the players’ union, has been negotiating with the bosses of Football Federation Australia for a new agreement for all female and male professional players for over seven months.
The Matildas currently receive a below minimum wage payment of $21,000 a year as salary (although not all of them even get this) plus match bonuses ranging from $500 up to $1,500 for an international tournament final.
Members of the Socceroos (Australia’s men’s team) receive between $6,500 and $11,500 a game. Women playing for the USA get paid $250,000 a year, while Wayne Rooney gets paid about $650,000 a week playing for Manchester United.
Matildas players argue, rightly, that it is impossible for them to survive on this derisory pay rate. The level of commitment required to be part of the team means that there is no way to hold down a second job to provide additional income, something that would never be expected of male professional athletes.
They are also demanding better travel conditions, including matching the business class flight entitlements of their male counterparts instead of having to fly international economy.
Matildas goalkeeper Lydia Williams said: “It’s simply unfair to continue to expect us to make enormous sacrifices to play for Australia. For the past two months the players have been unpaid and have made every attempt to reach an agreement”.
Thousands have shown support for the Matilda’s actions on social media including the Australian Women’s Basketball team. While the pay dispute for all professional soccer players continues, we should continue to support every strike they take towards their goals.