$2 billion pay equity settlement for health care workers

Remigio Civitarese
Aprile 18, 2017

The government will implement a historic pay equity pay deal for aged and residential care workers worth $2.05 billion of extra pay for some 55,000 people - close to 2% of the total New Zealand workforce.

Dr Coleman explained that from July 1 the predominantly female workforce, majority on or around the minimum wage of $15.75 an hour, would receive a pay rise of between around 15 and 50 per cent depending on their qualifications and experience.

Those services are government-funded, and the pay equity claim stems from a case brought by care worker Kristine Bartlett in 2012, in which she argued she and other caregivers were paid less because they worked in a predominantly female industry.

"For the 20,000 workers now on the minimum wage it means on July 1 they will move to at least $19 per hour, a 21 per cent pay rise".

"Home and community support, disability and aged residential care workers are widely seen as amongst the most deserving of recognition as a pay equity case", says Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman.

Within five years the rate would be $27 an hour - an increase of 71 per cent.

Existing workers will be transitioned to positions on the new pay scale which reflect their skills, and their experience.

Overall pay rises would be between $3 and $7 an hour, depending on the type of work and the employee's level of experience, and would not be backdated, NZME reported.

That rate would progressively increase to $23 by July 2021 and would rise further if they attain a higher qualification.

Mr Coleman warned ACC levies may increase over the next decade to help pay for the settlement although they are already set for the current financial year. However, that is not definite.

The Human Rights Commission also describes Tuesday's settlement as "historic" and believes it will change the lives of thousands of mainly female, low-paid workers and their families.

"What an exciting moment, after five years I'm thrilled", she said at a gathering of union representatives and fellow care workers near parliament.

After the Court of Appeal continued to find in Bartlett's favour, the government stepped in two years ago to start a negotiated settlement process rather than risk leaving it to the Supreme Court to rule a final determination.

That led to the Government setting up a working group to develop principles for dealing with pay equity claims, and introducing legislation late previous year that meant employees could file pay equity claims directly with their employer, rather than through the courts.

"Today is a great day for women in New Zealand, and part of a long journey towards women being acknowledged and valued for all the work that they do", said Ms Logie.

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