Mental health care and support workers lodge equal pay claim

Today the PSA and E tū have lodged an equal pay claim on behalf of mental health support workers with the Employment Relations Authority.

From 1 July, care and support workers in aged care, disability care and home support will receive a big pay lift as a result of the historic care and support Equal Pay settlement.

But mental health support workers aren’t included and will get nothing.

"It’s completely unfair that mental health support workers receive unequal pay and are undervalued just because we work in a traditionally female-dominated industry," says Pollyanna Alo, PSA claimant and mental health committee member.

"We’re highly qualified, and we work under intense pressure and stress right at the heart of our communities trying to address serious mental health issues like suicide."

E tū member and claimant, Vicki Harmon says from 1 July, mental health support workers will be working alongside people who will be paid more and it’s causing turmoil.

"People are leaving mental health services in droves and who wouldn’t?" says Vicki.

"We’ve had so many people leave our organisation for other disability providers and we’re exhausted doing the extra work. It’s a struggle to fill the rosters and everyone is knackered.

"The other thing is it’s not good for our service users - we’ve got people getting unwell due to the lack of consistency," she says.

PSA national secretary Erin Polaczuk says mental health support workers are already having to do more with less, and many are feeling underappreciated and underpaid for the complex and sensitive work they do.

"We’re calling on Government to fund a settlement that shows they truly value the workers who support our most vulnerable New Zealanders," says Ms Polaczuk.

"They’re working on increasingly thin resources despite massive increases in demand, and fair pay is crucial for the integrity of the whole sector going forward."

E tū Assistant National Secretary, John Ryall says the government needs to support the claim and move swiftly to avert the impending crisis.

"We are seeking urgency from the Authority in hearing this claim because the 1 July pay increases for other support workers will cause a crisis for the community mental health workforce," says John.