Unions debunk Little's 4.6% pay rate increase

The Green Party slammed it as 'blatantly misleading'

Unions debunk Little's 4.6% pay rate increase

Various unions are expressing their disappointment over the government's announced amendments to the Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlements Act 2017, which was expected to increase pay rates for care and support workers.

Aside from allowing homecare and support workers to pursue their pay-equity claim that they historically won in 2016, Health Minister Andrew Little previously said that the Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlements Amendment Bill will increase pay rates by 4.6%.

However, unions in a joint media release refuted this and claimed that the 4.6% increase included a 1.6% LCI adjustment, as agreed in the 2017 Act.

In actuality, workers will only be receiving a "measly" three per cent, according to the statement, adding that it is below the cost-of-living pressures faced by employees.

"With inflation at 6.9% and skyrocketing energy and fuel bills, these frontline workers face another 18 months of misery and it means their pay essentially goes backwards," said E tū Director Kirsty McCully.

"It's good news we'll now be able to take a pay equity claim which wasn't possible under the previous legislation, but workers can't wait that long for a decent pay rise."

According to the Public Service Association (PSA), on the other hand, the low pay increase will leave the sector in crisis.

"We believe this will see workers having to fight for higher pay or leave the sector – when it is the government that holds the purse strings," said PSA national secretary Kerry Davies. "Workforce shortages are already leaving elderly, vulnerable, ill, disabled clients and people in the community who have mental health and addiction needs in the lurch."

Read more: 'We need more health workers': NZ invests $76 million to grow workforce

The bill, which is expected to be fast-tracked by the government for its implementation on July 1, also saw opposition from the Green Party.

"Care and support workers are essential to the long-term wellbeing of our families, our communities and our country as a whole – and they deserve better," said party member Jan Logie said in a statement. "We should not be in a situation where the government is rushing through legislation at the last minute, silencing caregiver and community voices, just to increase pay by a paltry 65 cents to 79 cents an hour."

"This looks like exploitation. The Green Party will not vote for the exploitation of essential workers."

It underscored that the proposal did not meet the increased cost of living, while expressing concern that Little was misleading the public with the 4.6% pay increase.

"We're also concerned that the Minister is presenting this as a 4.6% pay raise, when the so-called 'out of cycle' pay increase 2021 was an existing entitlement under the legislation. This is blatantly misleading."

"With inflation impacting the lowest paid the most, this will leave thousands of care and support workers struggling to provide for themselves and their whānau."

"We will be pushing for much more substantial increases as the Bill progresses today, and in the future," said Logie.


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