The latest equal pay case – Go the Midwives

Good on the midwives taking their case straight to the High Court. Of course, it’s for the Court to decide if this is a case of gender discrimination, but the public arguments sounds pretty compelling.

I’m not sure how anyone would think a midwife, after three years of training, with significant legal and medical responsibilities, working 24/7, holding lives in their hands, should be paid less than other medical professionals with similar responsibilities. For example, senior nurses usually earn more than $67,000 whereas in 2015 the average taxable income for a midwife working as a Lead Materinity Carer was less than $54,000.

The wellbeing of our society rests on the essential work of midwives, social workers, rest home workers, and many other professionals engaged in caring work. All of these professions are female dominated, engaged in what was once considered women’s work. It is disgraceful that these women are having to resort to expensive legal battles through the court to have a hope of fair pay.

It’s 2015, not the 1950s. Wouldn’t it be great if we had a government that had a plan to address gender discrimination in pay rates to guarantee women equal pay for work of equal value?

Sure, it might cost government a little more in the short term, but in the long term a whole lot more families would have a whole lot more money to be able to live. As the Employment Court has noted, slavery was once upheld on the grounds society couldn’t afford to pay the slaves.

Jan Logie
Green Party MP Jan Logie stands with midwives for equal pay

6 Comments Posted

  1. Old lux,

    There are two ways midwives are employed and get paid. Those (called core midwives) who basically work for a DHB and are on hourly pay rates as are nurses ,etc And yes they should be payed on par with their nurse counterparts (though I understand the nurses are not to keen on this).

    The second group to which I was referring to are the community midwives who are paid per birth. This explains it far better then I could.

    http://www.ohbaby.co.nz/pregnancy/hot-topics/what-do-midwives-get-paid/

    So if the birth rate is static, the community midwives are in competition which each other to gain the customer. The more community midwives there are, the less they will get paid. Or if they wanted to get more pay they need the state to up its funding. Problem is with no cap on numbers, the community midwives may well never earn enough to bring their pay up to parity with their core midwives counterparts.

    Hope this settles your intrigue. Community midwives train up without the promise of any work. Just like a lawyer or a truck driver for example. The onus must be on the trainee to justify the learning expense versus the potential reward.

    To blindly think that irrespective of community midwives numbers, that their take home pay should be the same as say a core midwife means the need for an open-ended cheque book from the state.

    In the worst case scenario say 60,000 trained community midwives are available for the 60,000 births. And each community midwives each wanted a pay rate of $60,000 (to maintain pay parity with core midwives pay) . That would cost the state $36,000,000.

    I have no problem taxing the rich pricks to pay for this but even the most socialist of states could not afford this. Heck for one birth a year even I would train up as a community midwife.

    But I don’t think my experience birthing calves with wire strainers to pull out the stubborn ones, would be except able to the royal college of midwives.

  2. Gerrit, your maths logic intrigues me. You talk of an infinite number of midwives, which there isn’t, you talk about cutting midwife numbers to increase their share, which is only rational if they earn while waiting for clients, which I doubt happens. Otherwise they are doing more callouts for the same hourly rate which is already demonstrated as lower.
    A better scenario to me is those at the top end of the tax bracket pay more. In a democracy this is the normal reaction as the minority rich listers are only a small portion of the mass and have less to lose.

  3. This case only applies to self employed midwives who are funded by the government for the maternity services they provide through the Section 88 Maternity Services Notice (Section 88). These midwives work as Lead Maternity Carers in the community, providing 24 / 7 on call care for their caseload of women. Midwives can also be employed midwives in DHBs under the Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA). The MECA has been negotiated at regular intervals and has received (albeit small) percentage increases at these times. In contrast, midwives working as Lead Maternity Carers under the Section 88 Notice have received ONLY ONE 2.5% increase in payments since 2007 – that is one small increase in 8 years. That was in 2012. In this period the costs of providing a community based service has increased by a greater percentage, as has the complexity of women that are requiring maternity services AND there have increased expectations placed upon midwives in the services that they are required to provide (such as increased screening programmes to be offered to all women as one example). Midwives claiming under Section 88 are unable to charge women for any of the services they provide as maternity services are (and should continue to be) free for all eligible women. So, in effect the government has capped the income of self employed midwives (who have to pay all of their business expenses from the Section 88 payments). I am not aware of any other essential primary health care publicly funded service that has received such inadequate adjustments in funding over this period of time.

    As these midwives are self employed, this is not an employment pay equity case as no avenue exists for this, but discrimination on the grounds of gender under the Bill of Rights. If it were men who gave birth (instead of women) and they were looked after by men, would this situation exist? Which has been the predominant gender making decisions about funding of health care services in government over the last 8 years? How highly do they value women’s health care issues or the work of female workforces?

  4. Midwives need to realise it is NOT an gender issue but one of economics and mathematics.
    There are 60.000 birth annually. A static number (or for marketers a finite market).
    There is a pool of money allocated to finance these births ( could be an infinite $ amount but realistically semi fixed)
    There is an infinite (potentially) number of midwives to share the finite birth numbers and semi finite state funding.

    For midwives to get paid more requires either, more state funding per birth (what ALL the midwives are pining for) or a reduction in the numbers of midwives.

    Simply mathematics.

    Fewer midwives equals more pay for those left in the profession.

    Simply too many midwives for the 60,000 annual birth market.

    If midwives want pay equity with nurses, surplus midwives should retrain as nurses.

    That would achieve pay parity.

    The downside of increased state funding is the possibility that Doctor’s may find that practicing midwifery become viable again, putting the midwives in an even less secure financial position.

  5. The point re comparators and the measure being male dominated professions is correct. The reference to nursing was just highlighting the extent of underpayment even against another female dominated profession. Nurses also previously organised a pay 19% increase on equal pay grounds. So the example is still relevant.

    This is not a case in the employment court arguing comparators. It’s a gender discrimination case in the high court. I’m unsure of the legal arguments that they’re making.

    Re the point about self employment. Yes the midwives concerned are self employed but they are legally not allowed to charge clients and their payment is set. So it’s not like other self employment situations.

  6. I’m a bit confused about this, which is probably due to inadequate reporting.

    I’m not sure how anyone would think a midwife … should be paid less than other medical professionals with similar responsibilities … senior nurses usually earn more than $67,000 whereas in 2015 the average taxable income for a midwife working as a Lead Materinity Carer was less than $54,000.

    Call me confused, but is not nursing also a female-dominated profession, albeit less so than midwifery? Your statement may be absolutely correct, but that is a gender differentiation. So on a sample size of one, the argument has failed.

    But on just what Jan has stated there, the question I’d ask is: do “senior” nurses not have staff management responsibilities?

    What hasn’t been stated in the media reporting is that what is the equivalent job that men are doing that is being considered a benchmark equivalent?

    Another thing that appears to be murky is that are not midwives self-employed? Or is that only some midwives, and if so, which group does this argument apply to?

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