News from Service and Food Workers’ Union
A case taken by a long-time Lower Hutt caregiver who is also a member of the Service and Food Workers Union has resulted in a huge step forward for women workers.
A bench of three Employment Court judges found that the Union correctly interpreted the Equal Pay Act to mean that large occupational groups of women workers, such as caregiving, should receive a rate of pay equal to what would paid if that occupational group was male-dominated.
SFWU National secretary John Ryall said the outcome was the greatest advance for the rights of working women since the passing of the Equal Pay Act in 1972 and will be celebrated by caregivers and other low-paid women workers throughout New Zealand.
Lower Hutt caregiver Kristine Bartlett went to the Employment Court to show that her very low pay is a result of gender discrimination under the Equal Pay Act. Kristine’s case has shown that her pay rate of $14.32 an hour, after over 20 years of caregiving for the elderly, is based on her gender rather than her skills, effort and responsibility.
“This is a hard-won and historic victory that offers hope for low-paid women at last. For far too long “women’s work” has been under-valued and underpaid” said John Ryall.
“The Court has recognised that caregivers are paid abysmally low pay rates because they are women and has dismissed Business New Zealand arguments about the cost of removing pay discrimination as akin to the economic arguments against removing slavery.”
John Ryall said it was a huge step forward to establish that the Equal Pay Act, which has been around for over 40 years, provides the legal argument for an end to low wages in occupations simply because they are women’s jobs.
“This day will be remembered as turning point for equal pay for New Zealand women workers,” he said. “But this is just the first step. Now we need to do the work on identifying a comparable role, in terms of skills, responsibility and effort. This will be tough, as caregiving is highly-skilled and demanding work.”
However, he said there is a huge amount of job evaluation work already done overseas and in New Zealand and skilled experts available.
John Ryall also said that SFWU was keen to engage in a process with the aged care employers and the government funders, under the umbrella of the Court to set a fair rate of pay for caregivers, not the lower rates that are paid now simply because caregivers are women.
“Thousands of caregivers across New Zealand will now be invited to join the Equal Pay case and the growing group representing caregivers, providers, human rights advocate and spokespeople for the elderly will call on government to acknowledge the disgracefully low pay rates in caregiving and provide the funding to fix this now.”
Media statement from NZNO
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) congratulates Kristine Bartlett and the Service and Food Workers Union: Ngā Ringa Tota on their historic win in the Employment Court. Aotearoa New Zealand is now one step closer to achieving equal pay for men and women who do similar work.
NZNO industrial adviser for the aged care sector, David Wait says, “NZNO’s membership is 93 percent women and today is a great day for each and every one of them. Equality is now one step closer. Although we have had an equal pay act since 1972 we have never used it, and continue to pay those in female-dominated jobs less than those who work in male-dominated jobs. That’s not fair.
“It seems bizarre that we have to resort to court action to achieve equality between the sexes in the 21st century. Kristine Bartlett and the SFWU, with support from NZNO and others, have bravely stood up for fairness and won,” Wait says.
“Te pai kē o au mahi, kua whai hua mo ngā wāhine.”
Media statement from PSA
The Public Service Association is hailing the court decision which it says will open the door to further legal action in the fight to end sexist-based pay.
In a case taken by the Service and Food Workers Union, the Employment Court has found that the low pay of caregiver Kristina Bartlett is the result of gender discrimination under the Equal Pay Act.
The PSA says it’s a hugely significant decision with far-reaching implications for thousands of women who work in low paid occupational groups.
“This decision gives women a long-awaited legal mechanism to address what has been historical gender pay discrimination in occupations which are female-dominated,” says National Secretary Brenda Pilott. “It is also a big step in terms of getting rid of the notion of ‘women’s work’ and reinforces the fact that equal pay is a basic human right.”
The PSA will now consider how the court ruling can be applied to low paid members who work in home support as well as public sector administration and clerical roles.
“There is a lot of work ahead but this is a great weapon in the fight against pay inequity. We will now be looking at taking cases under both the Equal Pay Act and the 1960 Government Service Equal Pay Act,” Brenda Pilott says. “At a time when this government has brushed pay and employment equity aside and failed to take any action to close the gender pay gap, the importance of this case should not be underestimated.”
“It should send a strong message to the government and employers about the need to provide adequate funding so that low paid women are not discriminated against and get the pay they deserve,” she says.
Media statement from Greens
The Employment Court victory of Lower Hutt caregiver Kristine Bartlett means the Key Government needs to confront the issues of massive pay inequity in the caregiving sector, Green Party women’s spokesperson Jan Logie said today.
The Employment Court supported the Service and Food Worker’s union view that Ms Bartlett should receive a rate of pay equal to what those working in the same occupation would receive if that group was male-dominated.
“The Government should have acted after the hard hitting report of the Equal Employment Commissioner last year,” Ms Logie said. “That report highlighted the poor pay and undervaluing of the work done in the caring sector by a predominantly female workforce.
“Now the Employment Court has also recognised that caregivers are being paid abysmally low wages simply because of their gender. The Government needs to realise that care-giving is highly skilled and demanding work,” Ms Logie said. “There is no excuse for either pay disparity in this sector because of gender or the ridiculous situation whereby care workers funded by District Health Boards through providers, earn less than staff directly employed by a DHB.
“The ruling by the Employment Court over pay equity needs to be seen as a game changer that will spur the Government into action to stop the exploitation of the women working in the care sector.
“These women workers have been subsidising the Government and funders of these services through their labour and dedication to those they care for too long.
“The Service and Food Workers’ Union efforts in bringing this case to the Employment Court and demolishing the arguments of those with vested interests in keeping the status quo must now be matched by Government action,” said Ms Logie.