What do we want? Equal pay! When do we want it? Yesterday!
This quarter, our campaign for equal pay shifted into high gear.
From flash mobs and muffin runs to meetings with senior politicians, our members, supporters and equal pay advocates are finding unique ways advocate for the right to fair and equal pay at work.
Treat her right
The equal pay week of action (12 – 20 August) saw thousands of New Zealanders from Whangarei to Dunedin march, dance and speak out in support of equal pay. The week of action was both a celebration and a rally cry – we know, the fight for fair treatment at work is not won.
In Auckland, politicians addressed the more than 300 people who marched up Queen Street. Our members’ calls for support were heard, with a commitment from new Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern to scrap and redraft National’s Equal Pay Bill.
Labour also committed to extending the care and support rate to mental health support workers if elected to government.
The Green Party announced it would hold public sector chief executives responsible for achieving pay equity by 2020 and New Zealand First and the Māori Party committed to opposing the Equal Pay Bill.
Government Bill a serious roadblock
The Government has introduced a new bill, which if passed, will stand between thousands of women and their right to equal pay.
The Government’s Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill, is a cynical attempt to close the door on future equal pay settlements and represents a major distortion of the initial principles of equal pay negotiated by the Government, unions and employers.
The set of equal pay principles unions jointly agreed as part of the tripartite working group, paved a path for employers to work with unions and government to resolve equal pay claims in an orderly way.
It was a shock and a shame to see the Government’s bill ignore these principles.
The Bill has been presented to New Zealanders as a pathway to equal pay. In fact, it will make it more difficult for workers in female-dominated occupations to pursue equal pay claims.
PSA General Secretary Erin Polaczuk says the Bill is a completely deliberate and calculated move by the Government to clamp down on future claims: “If the Bill had been law when Kristine Bartlett’s claim was heard we wouldn’t have won the right to equal pay for disability, home support and aged care workers – it’s as simple and as serious as that.”
"With commitments to oppose the Bill from Labour, the Green Party, New Zealand First and the Māori Party it's clear a change of government will make equal pay a reality."
Why I became an equal pay advocate
Equal pay advocate and Christchurch-based Medical Secretary, Nancy McShane was awarded a prestigious CTU Union Women’s Award in July for her ongoing contribution to the equal pay campaign. This edition, Nancy shares her motivations for becoming an equal pay advocate.
“When I heard that Helen Kelly had passed away, I felt despair. Helen was a woman of great courage, integrity and humility. She knew what she stood for and she fought for it with an almighty passion. When she passed away, I felt her loss deeply, as I know many people did.
We had lost not only a great unionist, but a deeply compassionate woman who could have led this country out of the dark into better and kinder times, had she lived.
With Helen gone, it felt like we were adrift at sea, with no one to sail us to safe harbour. I wondered who would speak for us with the same ferocity, insight and strength. And then I remembered that I, too, have a voice. I, too, am compassionate, strong and insightful. I, too, can fight hard, and speak with an almighty passion. And so that is what I have chosen to do – every day, for as long as I can, as hard as I can and for as many people as I can.
As an equal pay advocate, the work I do is about ensuring the voices of women in this union and in Aotearoa New Zealand are heard. For me, being an equal pay advocate is about standing up and demanding equality, not just for ourselves but for our children.
There are too many children in this country living in extreme poverty; too many families who cannot afford to get into their first home; too many women and children trapped in violent relationships through sheer financial necessity.
We will not be limited through our incomes and we will not be ignored. If you aren’t already an equal pay advocate – join me!
Equal Pay advocacy around the country
Unsure what being an equal pay advocate involves? We talk to PSA members and allies about simple ways to raise awareness around the importance of equal pay.
Wellington: A sweet deal?
PSA Women’s committee chair and equal pay advocate, Virginia Wilton’s now infamous “muffin run” is using food to fuel conversations on pay equity.
In Wellington, Virginia’s selection of muffins, small for women, large for men, are passed around at morning tea time to prompt conversations on why we pay men more than women.
“The women I work with don’t hesitate to scrap with their colleagues over a large muffin, but unfortunately they aren’t afforded that same choice when it comes to their pay cheque.
“As a society we have decided to pay men more than women, it’s an issue that has implications for families, for human rights and for equality overall.”
Virginia says the muffin run gets a mixed response. Some people are happy to have the chance to talk about feminism at work and some people think it's an unfair comparison.
“Both conversations underline why I do this – it gives people a chance to think about fairness at work and challenges them to question pay inequality,” Virginia says.
PSA staff member Vicki Taylor doesn’t know much about crochet, but she knows how to organise.
If you haven’t heard about it, the craftivism movement came out of this year’s CTU Women’s Conference. Craftivism gets people together to knit, crochet and be creative to support equal pay.
The movement has been embraced by Vicki and a group of Dunedin women, who held weekly crafting sessions in the lead up to Dunedin’s equal pay day of action on 19 August.
The Dunedin pay equity action group, hosted at PSA House, collectively crocheted an equal pay banner with flowers in suggragette colours. Vicki says the circle extends beyond the union movement: “We were really keen to demonstrate that union action doesn’t have to be political and shouty. What we do is craft and dance and talk. We cover off the issues, but we also teach each another new skills.”
Nelson men donate to raise awareness for equal pay
Nelson pay equity partnership convener Pip Jamieson knows how to get the Nelson community involved in the equal pay debate - intercept them when they’re buying their morning coffee!
Pip got together with local café Pomeroy’s Coffee and Tea Co. and radio station The Breeze to highlight the gender pay gap in Nelson. For the duration of the equal pay week of action Pomeroy’s male customers were invited to donate an extra 50 cents for their daily cup of coffee with the week’s proceeds donated to a worthy working Nelson woman.
“For every dollar a man earns a woman earns only 88c. That's about 50 cents for the average cost of a cup of coffee. Men have been receiving more - so it's time for them to pay more,” Pip says.
The stunt was advertised on The Breeze with listeners encouraged to nominate hard-working women to receive the proceeds of the weeks coffees haul. The team raised $200 for the cause.