Unions say the claim will address gender-based underpayment
A group of unions in New Zealand has filed a second pay equity claim for care and support workers who they said remain “underpaid” by the government and employers.
The unions involved include the Public Service Association (PSA) Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi, E tū, the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) and New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa.
“We’re raising this claim because 65,000 people providing care and support for the most vulnerable in our communities are being underpaid by the government and employers who undervalue their work because it has primarily been done by women,” said PSA assistant secretary Melissa Woolley in a statement.
The second pay equity claim will cover 167 employers in disability, home and community health, mental health and addiction, and aged residential care sectors.
According to the unions, the pay equity claim addresses the underpayment that is driven by gender-based pay discrimination.
Melissa Ansell-Bridges, secretary of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, said they strongly support the second pay equity claim.
“Workers have been left waiting for far too long for that injustice to be rectified, going to work every day knowing they’re paid less than what they’re worth,” Ansell-Bridges said in a statement.
The pay equity comes ahead of the December 31 expiration of the Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Act 2017.
Janice Gemmel, NUPE national secretary, said this will leave workers “in limbo” regarding training and payrates.
“The incoming government has the opportunity to extend the Act under urgency to maintain the wins of the 2017 deal,” Gemmel said in a statement.
Disability support providers welcome move
The New Zealand Disability Support Network said it welcomes the second pay equity claim, stressing that female-dominated industries should also be paid similarly to male-dominated jobs.
“Disability support providers want to pay our workers more. It’s good for our workers and families, and it’s good for employers, because it’ll be easier to attract and retain workers,” said Peter Reynolds, CEO of the Disability Support Network, in a statement.
“But disability support providers are government-funded – we don’t have the money to pay more unless the government ponies up.”
Reynolds said the additional claim will be costly for employers and providers, but they are backing the effort to ensure employers in their sector are funded to pay their employees appropriately.
First pay equity claim
The latest pay equity claim filed by the unions is built on a previous claim lodged in 2022 which covers 15 employers.
However, the claim has stalled because the government has yet to approve funding to increase workers’ pay, a move that unions have slammed as “delaying tactics.”
“From the outset, unions and employers in the original claim have called for all care and support workers to receive a settlement at the same time using the funded sector framework extension mechanism put in place by the outgoing Government, and for the Care and Support Settlement Act be extended,” said Glenda Alexander, industrial services manager at the NZNO, in a statement.
“Every care and support worker in Aotearoa deserves pay equity. Without the assurance the new government will continue the funded framework, raising a second claim will help make sure no one is left behind.”