Equal pay bill "a backward step" for working women

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National’s equal pay bill is a huge disappointment to working women in New Zealand - and makes a mockery of its much-vaunted commitment to pay equity, the PSA says.

The PSA has prepared its submission on the draft Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill, which it calls "a significant backward step" from the Equal Pay Act 1972.

"I cannot express how disappointed we are in this bill as it stands," PSA National Secretary Erin Polaczuk says.

"Last month our members in care and support celebrated a historic settlement which will see them and the people they support properly valued for the first time.

"We welcomed the chance to take part in the Joint Working Group, which reached a consensus and proved that unions, business and the Crown can work well together.

"We took the Equal Pay Act 1972 and the findings in the Kristine Bartlett case as a starting point, and the government should do the same.

"In fact, this legislation significantly weakens the existing position.

"Under these proposals, the Equal Pay Act is repealed, and in its place there’s an unnecessarily complex process which makes it more difficult for employees to raise a claim."

Ms Polaczuk says the PSA’s major concerns are around a too-onerous merit test in Clause 14, and a rigid hierarchy for finding comparators in Clause 23.

"We are also deeply worried about proposals to embed crucial aspects of the Joint Working Group’s recommendations in regulations - which can be changed without recourse to parliament.

"And as if all this weren’t enough, the proposal to deal with existing claims under the new bill amounts to retrospective legislation.

"This would be a fundamental breach of human rights and constitutional law.

"We are disappointed with this legislation, because it will reduce women’s equal pay rights.

"We sincerely hope the government will listen to the outcry from many women through this submission  - and rectify these grave issues."