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National Government’s Bill would not get Kate Sheppard’s Support

Today the Council of Trade Unions, on behalf of all working women, is calling on all women in Parliament to vote for women and vote against the first reading of the Government’s Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill. Those that do vote against are being offered a white flower to wear. This Bill will make it harder for women to achieve fair and equal pay.

“124 years ago New Zealand women won the right to vote. Suffragists gave white camellias to those that supported making New Zealand a fairer place. Suffragists second priority, after securing the vote, was to win equal pay for women. This campaign continues in 2017. The white flowers, and a vote against this Bill, shows that MPs are committed to making New Zealand fairer – this draft legislation, the Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill, does the opposite.”

“Men and women are still paid differently in New Zealand. Sometimes even when performing the same role. Often work which includes a “caring” component is devalued and seen as women’s work. A clear example of this was with the recently successful Kristine Bartlett equal pay settlement which resulted in over 55,000, mostly women, working in caring roles in residential aged care, disability support and home support winning pay increase. This increase was won because it was proven, and accepted, that those roles had been unfairly paid due to the fact that the work was predominately performed by women.”

“If this Bill had been the law when Kristine Bartlett and her union E tū had been fighting for equal pay then it would have been much more difficult to have succeeded and won the historic outcome which was achieved,”

“An update of equal pay law is needed and this was significantly progressed through a Joint Working Group last year of government, business and union negotiators, who agreed in 2016 on a set of Principles to guide pay equity negotiations. This Bill does not achieve what the Principles were designed to achieve: a better process and pathway to equal pay.”

There are four key problems with the Bill:

  1. It imposes an unnecessary hierarchy of comparators,
  2. It creates onerous requirements for women to prove merit in order to initiate a pay equity claim,
  3. It extinguishes women’s ability to seek back pay in a pay equity claim, and
  4. The transitional provisions unfairly and retrospectively deal with current claims and new claims until the Bill becomes law.

“What the Government needs to do is bring a Bill to the house which is consistent with the already agreed joint Principles, is consistent with the Court of Appeal ruling in Bartlett v Terranova, and provides a constitutionally acceptable way of dealing with existing equal pay claims,” Wagstaff said.