Sunday, June 18, 2017

Women get equal pay for equal work in New Zealand

The following is from the Otago Daily Times out of New Zealand. New Zealand just made a tremendous move toward finally giving women equal pay for equal work.  This move will help women now and will also help them save toward their retirement. New Zealanders should be proud of this move.

The government announced a $2 billion package (over five years) will substantially increase the pay of some 55,000 state-subsidised low-paid care workers (who are mainly women) in the aged residential care, home support, and disability sectors. The payments will not be backdated, but, from July, workers on the minimum hourly wage of $15.75 will get least $19, a 21% rise.

The settlement is the result of caregiver Kristine Bartlett's 2013 case to the Employment Court (it also went to the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court), which found her low hourly pay rate (then $14.32) was a result of gender discrimination under the Equal Pay Act. It reinterpreted the Act as applying to equal pay for work of equal value, not just the same pay for the same work.

The Government is now leading the world on this issue. It is certainly important to work with the private sector. Businesses will inevitably be worried about any flow-on effect which might cost jobs and close businesses.
Yet when some are posting healthy profits in a growth industry like aged care, it is hard to buy into the arguments. Likewise, the Government's surplus means it shouldn't be a case of robbing Peter to pay for Paula but redistributing the wealth in a more equitable manner.
More money to women means more money to families and children (and it is likely to be money spent locally). It also means women have more chance to put money towards vital retirement savings and the like. Surely everybody wins?
The message the settlement sends about value (of women, their work and those they look after) reaches far beyond the pay packet. In the changing world of work, private businesses will simply have to adapt - especially if their workers now have other options.
Although forced to act, the Government has again stolen the traditional social policy ground of Labour. Its announcement mere months away from the general election may help it cash in on its investment.

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