Behind the Scenes

Winning equal pay

Pania LoveDisability support worker and PSA delegate Pania Love talks about what it’s been like to achieve equal pay, and how she will continue to support the movement.

What do you love most about your job?

The people I work with. Giving them the quality of life. I work with people with multiple disabilities. So non-verbal, in a wheelchair. We do everything for them. We are their eyes, their hands. I have a Down Syndrome daughter, and my Mum and my Nan worked in this field. So I was kinda born into it, it’s hereditary.

What made you want to get involved with equal pay?

My work colleagues and I had to pick up extra shifts just to make ends meet. I got involved for all of us. Especially for us as women in a women-dominated industry. The majority of us in my region are Pacific and Māori women, too.

Do you feel the equal pay win has changed the industry as a whole for the better?

Before, our employers used to take anyone off the street, but now they’re looking for qualifications. Those with more qualifications get more of a look in.

After equal pay was implemented and we were getting what we deserved, we struggled to find cover because not everyone had to take those hours anymore. Employers also put more workload onto us. So there were positives and negatives.

Do you feel being a part of a union helps push for change?

Most definitely. You need the people to push forward. With equal pay that’s how we did it. It was the PSA, but also the whole union movement stepping forward.

It’s good there’s now a standardised pay scale for community support workers. Employers could put wages up at any time if they wanted to, but they don’t want to. We need to continuously put that pressure on them to toe the line.

What do you want to do next with the equal pay campaign?

I’m aiming to push for all of us members, especially in our industry. We need to get in and back those of us that haven’t got [equal pay] yet. I’d like to get more involved with things like lobbying. I’ve never ever done that, but it’s something I want to learn to do.

We need to get in behind our mental health and addiction support workers 100%. It was a sore point for us with [the care and support settlement]. As much as I wanted to jump for joy, I felt I had to hold back because they weren’t with us.

Many mental health support workers came over to care and support because they weren’t getting recognised for the mahi they were doing by the pay they were getting. But what a waste of skills. You leave all these people who need that support hanging.

Mental health support workers now have to do two or three shifts to fill the gaps of the people who have left. So where does that leave them? Where is their safety net? It’s really important we back them up.

What has achieving equal pay meant for you personally?

Not having to struggle to put food on the table. Have a bit of luxury money to do something together as a family. It’s made a huge difference to me personally, but that’s not what we’re about!

By Jem Yoshioka