Govt must deliver equal pay for working women

Labour market data released by Statistics New Zealand today indicates that a gender pay gap persists in New Zealand, despite improvement in some areas.

There is currently a 9.3% difference between male and female median hourly earnings, and while this is a significant improvement on the 16.2% difference in 1998 it is largely unchanged from 2017.

Female members of the Public Service Association and other unions have in recent years won huge pay rises through union-led pay equity court cases, which in some cases raised wages by up to fifty percent.

Despite this, the overall public service gender pay gap increased between 2017 and 2018, with the difference in median pay growing from 9.7% to 10.7%.

"I am so proud of working women in this country for standing up and saying no to poverty wages," says Kerry Davies, National Secretary of the PSA.

"These new figures confirm that we are not moving fast enough, and in parts of the public service we are at risk of falling backwards. It’s time to take the hand brakes off and pay women more."

Pasifika women are the lowest paid group of workers in New Zealand, and earn nearly $30,000 a year less on average than Pakeha men in the public sector.

Things are little better for Māori women, on behalf of whom the PSA Rūnanga has registered a Waitangi Tribunal claim as part of the Mana Wahine inquiry.

"Generations of Māori and Pasifika women have been underpaid, underappreciated and underrepresented in decisions that affect their lives," says Ms Davies.

"Low pay for anyone puts downward pressure on standards for everyone, so we all have both a moral obligation and a direct material interest in righting this historic wrong."

In 2015 the PSA filed a legal claim against the State Services Commission, calling for an end to gender based inequalities in the state sector. This claim led to the establishment of New Zealand’s Gender Pay Principles.

Several equal pay claims are currently being pursued by the union, covering a broad range of workers in low paid and disproportionately female industries such as library assistants, DHB admin and clerical workers, and workers in the government contracted social services sector.

"We recognise and appreciate the Labour-led government’s work preparing the Equal Pay Amendment Bill, and note that significant minimum wage rises have helped women in both the public and private sectors. We want legislation that embeds the ability of workers across sectors to efficiently and effectively settle equal pay claims through union collective bargaining ," says Ms Davies.

"The best thing the government can do now is sit down at the table and bargain with the thousands of women it employs on low wages. Either through settling equal pay court cases or through direct collective bargaining, the government can fix this problem if it really wants to."