Media brief on equal pay

What is the Government doing about equal pay?

The Government is entering negotiations to improve pay rates and workforce issues in the disability sector, home support sector and aged care sector.

The PSA, the Service and Food Workers Union (now part of the new union E tū), NZ Nurses Organisation, Council of Trade Unions, employers and funders will work with the government-appointed negotiator.

The aim is to find a lasting solution to low pay for support workers in the health sector.

At the same time the Government is starting discussions with the Council of Trade Unions to establish principles for equal pay in the wider economy. The PSA will be one of a number of unions involved in these discussions.

Negotiations will conclude in March 2016.

It’s our expectation that support workers who work in disability support services and home-based support services funded by Ministry of Health, DHBs or ACC will be the first group to benefit.  Those who work in the wider economy will have to wait longer to have equal pay issues addressed.

If insufficient headway is made in discussions with the Government, the PSA will look at re-initiating litigation to progress equal pay for our members.

Why is the Government acting now?

In 2012 the-then Service and Food Workers Union lodged an application on behalf of support worker Kristine Bartlett with the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) that she was not receiving equal pay as per the Equal Pay Act 1972.

Kristine had been working for 20 years in the aged care sector and receiving little more than the minimum wage. The Employment Court found in Kristine’s favour, saying that workers in female-dominated industries could not be paid less than those in male-dominated industries "if they had the same or substantially similar skills, responsibility and service". The case was finally settled when the Supreme Court declined the employer’s leave to appeal.

The Supreme Court's decision means the second stage of the case can now proceed where principles will be determined that will set the equal pay rate for Kristine’s job in aged care, and comparisons with men's work in other sectors can be made.

Equal pay for work of equal value is a major issue for women in the public service where they are paid 14% less than men.

In 2013 the PSA launched its “Worth 100%” campaign to win equal pay for its members by 2024. The PSA has been at the forefront of the battle for equal pay since the union was formed in 1913.

In the 1950s women in the PSA campaigned for equal pay in the public service. Their fight led to the Equal Pay Act in 1972.  However, despite the Act being in force for more than four decades women are still not being paid the same as men for work of equal value.

The momentum for equal pay is growing, other unions are taking legal action on behalf of their members and there is a public mood for change. Gender-based pay is an anachronism in 21st century.

Why is it a big deal?

Equal pay is a recognised human right but female–dominated jobs are paid a lot less than male dominated jobs. For example, in 2008, a community support worker job (mostly women) was held to be “of substantially similar value” to that of a corrections officer job (mostly men). The difference in starting salaries for these two jobs with similar skills, responsibilities and effort is about $7 per hour. That’s $280 per week and $14,560 over a year.

Women with similar qualifications and experience to men are often not paid the same and their career progression is slower.

Women graduates are paid, on average, 6 per cent less than their male counterparts at the very start of their careers. Within four years, they are earning nearly $5,000 a year less and the gap continues to widen.

In the public sector women’s average earnings are 14% less than men’s. The PSA estimates that women in the public service are being short-changed to the tune of $294,827,136.

The pay gap represents a huge loss of earnings over a working life. It limits women’s choices and those of her children. It can mean the difference between a comfortable retirement and scrimping on food and heating.

In March 2015 the ANZ Bank reported that average balances for women members of the ANZ KiwiSaver Scheme were almost 28% lower than men and growing.

Common terms

Gender pay gap: Gap between women’s average pay and men’s average pay.

Equal pay: Same job. Same pay for women and men.

Equal pay for work of equal value: Different job, same job size. Same pay for women and men.

Pay equity: Same average pay for women and men.

Job evaluation: Tool to measure job size.

Useful sources