Pay Equity at PSA Women’s Network Conference

A report back from the PSA Women’s Network Conference 17 September by PSA Youth member Francie Mountier.

It was a great day, with women there from all over the country. There was a good showing of PSAY members – and Hannah Gabriel, a PSAY member from Wellington, was elected to the Committee.

The highlight of the day was Lisa Heap’s speech about the recent Pay Equity win in Australia. Lisa is the Executive Director Australian Institute of Employment Rights Inc, and was invited to NZ by the PSA.

The gender pay gap in Australia is 17.5%. This worsened after Workchoices was brought in. Like NZ, Australia has had Pay Equity legislation since 1972. Under their legislation, a male comparator is not necessary, and discrimination in the setting of rates doesn’t need to be proved. But only 1 claim has been heard – the Community Services Award – and one further claim lodged (the Childcare Educators).

A team took the Community Services pay equity case in Queensland because they had adopted a Pay Equity Principle in 2002 i.e. the legislative framework there was better than elsewhere. In Queensland, relevant work features are also considered, such as ‘a high proportion of small workplaces, predominantly female workforce, high proportion of part time and casual employment’ - From Lisa’s slides.

The Commission in Queensland accepted the case, and eventually the national Commission did too. Wage increases of between 19 and 41% were granted. This was after a massive campaign run by unionists and committed activists. Thousands of people wrote letters, marched, protested… Check it out here.  Lisa said the campaign was the “magic” that ensured success.

Here in NZ we also have an exciting situation with Kristine Bartlett’s recent win in the Employment Court. Kristine is a care-worker and Service and Food Workers Union member. She has worked at Riverleigh Rest Home in Lower Hutt for 19 years and is still paid only $14.46 an hour. The Court made two important findings:

“The first was that the pay rate of Bartlett and her colleagues should correctly be compared to the pay rate of men with the same skills in other industries. The second was that the court was allowed to intervene and set a fair pay rate when pay equality of remuneration is lacking… A second court hearing will look at the comparison and, if necessary, correct the wage rate of Bartlett and her colleagues. – Peter Cullen, Cullen – the Employment Law Firm

pay equity womens networkLet’s see that magic here, too, with Pay Equity campaigning stepping up to support Kristine and to ensure a win out of this historic moment. Pay and Employment Equity is one of the PSA’s four 2020 strategic plan goals.

Currently the NZ gender pay gap is 9.32%, and in the Public Service, it’s 13.7%. The libraries campaign, the Home Support: Time to Care campaign, and the DHB clerical and admin workers campaign all have a strong pay equity component. There’s an awesome film (forthcoming) of the work PSA women have done over the last 100 years."