Nursing unions join call to challenge pay equity bill

Nursing Unions NZNO and PSA have joined forces with other unions to criticise the draft pay equity bill as a step backwards for equality for nursing and women.

Nursing Unions NZNO and PSA have joined forces with other unions to criticise the draft pay equity bill as a step backwards rather than forwards for pay equity claims.

The Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill  is expected to have its first reading in parliament this week.  The bill was developed in the wake of the TerraNova pay equity case that lead to the $2Billion pay equity settlement for caregivers and also to the government accepting the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity recommendations that current legislation be updated to make it easier for women to file pay equity claims with their employers rather than going through the courts.  But the unions claim the draft bill would actually make it more difficult rather than easier for nurses and other women to pursue pay equity.

“The Bill as it is, currently puts the onus on women to prove inequity and introduces extra barriers for women to be paid fairly for their work,” said Cee Payne, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation Industrial Services Manager. “I urge all political parties to question this and examine this proposition carefully.”

“This Bill gives no opportunity for outstanding pay equity claims to be assessed the same way as Kristine Bartlett’s was. Nurses haven’t established the best pay equity comparison yet but this Bill is off the mark as nurses deserve to find this out without having to jump through more hoops.”

NZNO has introduced a pay equity claim for District Health Board nurses as part of its Multi-Employer Collective Agreement bargaining. Payne said it was confident that their claim could be worked through “fairly and in good faith” using the principles agreed by the Government’s tripartite working group which was made up of employer, union and government representatives.

The Public Service Association (PSA), that represents many mental health and public health nurses, described the draft pay equity bill as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and a cynical attempt to close the door on future equal pay settlements.

Erin Polaczuk, PSA national secretary, said the bill had “cherry-picked” from the Joint Working Group’s recommendations and the bill actually made it “significantly more difficult for workers in female-dominated occupations to pursue pay equity claims by placing new and unreasonably onerous requirements on claimants”.


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