Let’s keep pushing for progress as we mark 50 years of pay equity
As we celebrate 50 years since the historic passing of the Equal Pay Act, we must keep the momentum going to ensure true fairness in pay, says the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.
"While the direction of travel has been positive in recent years, it’s been a slow and difficult journey. We’ve not made the progress we should have over the past 50 years, and it’s time to redouble our efforts to ensure all women are paid the same as men for equivalent work," said PSA National Secretary Kerry Davies.
"If we are truly committed to a fairer society, then equal pay must be a cornerstone of that and unions, employers and the Government must resolve to keep making progress.
"On this historic day, the PSA urges all political parties to be up front about whether they will continue to support progress, including effective pay transparency legislation and closing ethnic pay gaps.
"Right now, we have nine pay equity claims outstanding and the settlement of each of these claims will be another step in the long and important journey towards true pay equity.
"Every day many of our members are better off for the settlements we’ve achieved and it’s even more important at this time given the cost of living pressures on so many households.
"This Government has certainly helped with the Equal Pay Amendment Act passed in 2020. This is critical legislation which makes the process of achieving settlements easier, quicker and fairer and is paving the way for important settlements."
The first of these was this year’s historic settlement of a pay equity claim covering 10,000 workers in health administration employed by hospitals. Now some will see their pay rise by as much as $20,000. Workers like Nancy McShane in Christchurch are seeing the benefits.
"It’s very satisfying to now hear stories from my colleagues on the difference equal pay has made in their lives. Before the settlement, many were on the point of losing their homes, were struggling to pay the rent, were unable to visit a dentist or escape violent relationships. Now they have the financial freedom to make different life choices for themselves and their children.
"I’m grateful to have lived long enough to see progress on this issue finally being made and thank our current government for the significant steps it has and is taking, to ensure all women in Aotearoa are paid their true worth.
"Equal pay is not just a women’s issue, it’s everyone’s issue. When we don’t pay women fairly that affects not only them as individuals but their families. Now, more than ever, it’s important we understand that."
"We are proud of the part the PSA has played alongside many unions in ensuring equal pay for equal work," said Kerry Davies. "But today is also a reminder of the important work that’s still to be done to ensure we keep fighting for true pay equity - valuing work done by women the same as work done by men and eliminating all forms of pay discrimination."
The Equal Pay Act was passed on 20 October 1972.
The PSA has been fighting for equal pay for work of equal value for women workers since 1913 when it adopted the principle of equal pay at its first conference in 1914 and won equal pay for public servants in 1960 with the passing of the Government Service Equal Pay Act.
Throughout the 1960s, the union movement and women’s organisations campaigned for equal pay to be extended to the private sector. Unions raised equal pay again and again in awards bargaining, but employers and the Arbitration court argued that it would require legislative change. The 1972 Equal Pay Act was a result of this campaigning. It wasn’t until 2017, when unions negotiated an equal pay settlement for all care and support workers on the back of a case on behalf of care worker Kristine Bartlett, that the Equal Pay Act provided protection for those working in industries dominated by women.