The new Government calling a halt on the previous Government’s pay equity bill has been given a firm thumbs-up by nursing unions keen to reduce the ‘hoops’ for pay equity claims – including nursing claims.
The Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety Iain Lees-Galloway and the Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter today put out a statement reaffirmed the new Government’s pre-election commitment to halting the Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill currently before parliament.
“While both sides of the House seemed united in lauding the TerraNova decision in favour of care and support workers and Kristine Bartlett, the previous Government immediately introduced legislation that fundamentally changed the ability of anyone else to achieve the same result,” said Lees-Galloway.
Cee Payne, industrial services manager for the New Zealand Nurses Organisation said the flawed bill had put the onus on women to prove inequity and introduced extra barriers for women to be paid fairly.
“The Bill gave no opportunity for outstanding pay equity claims to be assessed the same way as Kristine Bartlett’s was,” she said. “Nurses haven’t established the best pay equity comparison for them yet but this Bill is off the mark as nurses deserve to establish this without having to jump through hoops.”
NZNO lodged a pay equity claim for district health board nurses and other NZNO members in the recent MECA negotiations (see previous story) and it is understood that alongside a new pay deal – to be voted on later this month – a possible pathway for pursuing the claim had also been progressed.
Glenn Barclay, national secretary of the Public Service Association, agreed the bill was flawed said there was much to celebrate in the decision to “dump” it. “It was a short-sighted and unfair bill, and congratulations to this government for recognising that,” said Barclay.
He said unions, women’s groups and their allies had campaigned for equal pay for more than a century – and forty-five years after the Equal Pay Act, it was time to finish the job.
Lees-Galloway said while both sides of the House had seemed united in lauding the TerraNova decision in favour of care and support workers and Kristine Bartlett, the previous Government immediately introduced the bill that fundamentally changed the ability of anyone else to achieve the same result. He said the new Government would start work on new legislation built on the principles of the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity.
Genter, who is also an associate minister for health said women in New Zealand should know the new Government was committed to valuing women in the workplace and valuing vocations that that have traditionally been women’s work; “the work that provides for others” and “cares for people who need care”.
“The existing Bill aimed to apply retrospectively, which would have been unfair to the up to eight groups of women currently making pay equity claims. We will do better by all women,” said Genter.
The government press release did not mention the fate of community mental health workers who were excluded from the $2 Billion care and support care workers pay equity settlement last year. Labour election policy was to make mental health workers a priority in pay equity negotiations.