Unions representing care and support workers are pleased to be jointly announcing with government a proposed equal pay settlement to 55,000 workers across the aged residential, disability and home support sectors.
The proposed settlement is a huge win and will make a real difference in valuing the work of care and support workers and the people they support, workers in the sector say. It is a significant step in addressing gender inequality in New Zealand.
The offer lifts care and support workers’ pay to between $19.00 and $23.50 from 1 July, rising to between $21.50 and $27.00 in July 2021.
It comes after 20 months of negotiations established by government to settle caregiver and E tū member Kristine Bartlett’s landmark equal pay case, lodged in 2012, which went all the way to the Supreme Court with the courts finding gender bias was the cause of Kristine’s low wages.
Kristine says “It will give us dignity and pride and make our lives worthwhile, knowing we’re being paid what we are actually worth. After years of struggling on low wages, hopefully we’re going to have a bit left over to actually enjoy life.”
Tens of thousands of care and support workers will now vote on the proposed settlement in coming weeks.
E tū Assistant National Secretary, John Ryall says the offer once ratified will mean a “once in a lifetime pay rise which will end poverty wages for this mainly female workforce and set them on the path to a better life. We’re delighted today’s proposed settlement recognises the justice of Kristine’s case and the wonderful work of Kristine and other professional carers.”
New Zealand Nurses Organisation Industrial Services Manager Cee Payne says that “This equal settlement delivers pay rates that truly reflect the skills and importance of the work that care and support workers undertake every day. Decent pay rates and the right to achieve qualifications will grow and retain skilled workers to care for our elderly. This will build public confidence that high quality care will be delivered to our families’ loved ones in our rest homes and hospitals.”
PSA National Secretary Erin Polaczuk says: “This settlement will make a real difference to our members. Our members in home support and disability support play a vital role in empowering people to live independent lives in their own communities. This settlement recognises the value of the work they do – and the people they support.”
Unions say the government is to be commended for agreeing to negotiate this settlement offer, rather than waiting for years before the legal process was finally exhausted.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the proposed settlement?
- This proposed settlement has been negotiated by government and unions over the past 20 months.
- The proposal features a 5-year set of pay increases linked to experience and qualifications
- It will apply to approximately 55,000 working people in residential aged care, disability support services and home support services.
- From 1 July 2017, existing staff would be paid between $19.00 and $23.50 an hour. Currently these workers earn an average of just over $16.00 an hour, with many on the minimum wage
- By July 2021, there would be an entry level pay rate of $21.50 an hour with a top rate of $27.00.
- The proposed settlement is worth just over $2 billion over five years
How did we get here?
In 2012, aged care worker and E tū  member Kristine Bartlett brought an Equal Pay Act case against her employer, Terranova Homes. She argued she had spent 20 years on very low pay because aged care is largely performed by women. Kristine Bartlett’s case went all the way to the Supreme Court – with Courts agreeing with her that she had been underpaid because of gender discrimination.
The case was referred to the Employment Court to set a fair rate for Kristine. Before this happened, the government intervened, asking E tū, the NZNO, the PSA and the CTU to instead work on a negotiated settlement with them to avoid further court action, and extend coverage of the negotiations to include all care and support workers in aged care, disability and home support. The outcome of those talks is today’s proposed settlement.
Today’s historic moment comes after decades of activism in support of equal pay for work of equal value from women’s organisations, community groups and unions, and follows campaigns to raise the profile of the undervalued work that care workers do, such as the Human Rights Commission’sCaring Counts report the E tū and NZNO Fair Share for Aged Care campaign, the PSA and E tū Up Where We Belong campaign raising the status of disability support work, and the PSA and E tū campaign Time to Care for home support workers.
What happens now?
Hundreds of workplace meetings will get underway in the coming weeks for workers in the sector to hear the results of the negotiations and vote on whether to accept the offer. It’s important that all care and support workers attend these meetings to have a say. If it is endorsed, the rates of pay will come in to effect on 1 July this year.
How does this relate to other equal pay cases?
Each case is different and treated on its own circumstances. A separate process to these negotiations for care and support workers has taken place, called the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles. The group, made up of union, business and government negotiators, came up with principles to guide equal pay negotiations. See: http://www.ssc.govt.nz/pay-equity-working-group.
 Formerly Service and Food Workers Union