Jan Logie

Equal pay will require a change of government

by Jan Logie

Today EEO Commissioner Dr. Jacqui Blue joined previous commissioners in calling on all political parties to set targets to close gender and ethnic pay gaps. In the past two years there has been no change in the public sector gender pay gap in the 29 core government departments.

The gender pay gap in the public is now 14.3 % – higher than for the whole workforce which is at 12.8%. It is simply unacceptable for there to be such a difference in pay based on gender.

How can we expect private sector employers to take the next steps when they see government doing nothing? The government needs to start doing its fair share for women. It sets us all back when the government decides to be a slow follower on the journey to equality. We need a government who will commit to equality and human rights.

Despite last term’s National Minister of Women’s Affairs saying she would leave no stone unturned to reduce the gender pay gap the government has continued to take advantage of women – that is what they’re doing when they chose to pay women less for work of equal value.

One of the first things National did when they came to power was close down the equal pay unit and put a hold on the plans to reduce the gender pay gap within the public sector, undermining years of work. The latest report by the EEO commissioner shows that while Public sector agencies should have and report on EEO programmes as part of the good employer obligations in the State Sector Act this is not often the case. The Government Service Equal Pay Act has been in place for over 50 years but without the mechanisms to develop plans and monitor performance nothing much changes.

When attention on the gender pay gap spiked in the media three years ago in response to Catherine Delahunty’s members bill and the unfortunate comments by Alisdair Thompson, John Key promised to look at pay equity in the run up to the 2011 election. Since being reelected however he has rejected every opportunity to actually do something about the gender pay gap. In fact they’ve turned down pay claims, changed laws and intervened in court cases to stop it:

  • Last year the government rushed through legislation under urgency to deny equal pay to some family carers, primarily women, and deny any payment at all to thousands more.
  • Then while the Minister of Labour has suggested pay equity is a workplace issue, the Crown intervened on behalf of the employer at the High Court opposing Kristine Bartlett’s bid for equal pay.
  • And again recently the government indicated they would not increase funding for the aged care sector to enable fair let alone equal pay.

The Green Party policy is to:

  • Introduce legislation to progress pay and employment equity. This will work towards a mechanism:
    • For all employers to undertake pay audits.
    • For employers to report on pay and employment equity in all sectors.
    • For legislation that makes it a breach of good faith for an employer to refuse to modify or eliminate pay rates or practices that continue an inequity.
  • Establish a Pay and Employment Equity Commission. This commission will:
    • Collect, collate and analyse data on pay and employment equity.
    • Educate and inform employers and employees on pay equity.
    • Report annual progress on reducing the gender and ethnicity pay gap

It seems not all parties are equal and if you want equality you will have to vote for it.

Published in Economy, Work, & Welfare | Justice & Democracy by Jan Logie on Wed, June 25th, 2014   

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