web analytics
The Standard

Congrats to Kristine Bartlett & SFWU

Written By: - Date published: 2:42 pm, August 23rd, 2013 - 20 comments
Categories: equality, wages - Tags:

The Employment Court has issued a preliminary ruling on caregivers pay – saying that their pay should be compared to what it would be if their profession was male-dominated, not 92% women.

Kristine Bartlett is the test case with more than 20 years’ experience and skills bringing her a $14.32/hr wage.  The Service and Food Workers’ Union (SFWU) took it to the Employment Court to say that those skills and experience are under-valued.

The result is a huge precedent for gender pay equity.

John Ryall of the SFWU is now inviting thousands of caregivers to join the Equal Pay case against their employers and the DHBs (who contract out the work).

So may I join the CTU, Pay Equity Challenge Coalition, NZNO etc in hearty congratulations on a big win on an important issue.

20 comments on “Congrats to Kristine Bartlett & SFWU”

  1. alwyn 1

    I don’t want to comment on the merits or otherwise of this case.
    The problem I see no solution to is one of measurement. How do you decide what the pay would be if the profession was predominately male-dominated?
    The favourite mantra is “equal pay for work of equal value”. Fine sounding words but how do you measure it? I have worked in companies that claimed that they were trying to implement this. In paractice however they involved putting values on such thing as financial resposibility, skill and so on. I may be cynical but whatever they used the weightings applied to the various factors were such that personnel, as “Human Resources” was called in those dark days always rated very, very highly.
    Even the ones that seem most appropriate, such as equating primary and secondary teachers seem to become unusable when one says that University staff should also be treated the same.
    Once you get away from the basics it gets even more difficult. I have seen arguments that we can equate social workers and police. Why are they regarded as similar? How many social workers have to go into a crowd of drunks, by themselves, at night and try and break up a brawl?
    I think that many people are underpaid. That needs fixing but settling on somebodys opinion of what a pay rate would be if other people did the work is impossible.
    Of course if you give me the job it will be easy. I will decide that MPs are the equivalent of low level managers and drop their pay to $50,000/year immediately.

    • karol 1.1

      Just because it’s hard, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be tried. It’s glaringly obvious that traditionally female-dominated jobs are paid lower than male dominated ones. It is especially caring professions that suffer. They are more important to the social good than their pay-status indicates.

      Congratulations Bartlett and the SFWU.

      • Lanthanide 1.1.1

        “It’s glaringly obvious that traditionally female-dominated jobs are paid lower than male dominated ones.”

        Are they low paid because women do the work, or because they are low paid, most men aren’t motivated to put in the effort to do it?

        • karol

          Ah, sometimes it’s a bit of chicken and egg. It’s often low paid and given to women, because the jobs have low status. When there’s a shift in jobs, men can vacate a once high status job for the newer, flasher ones. For instance, one secretaries/typists were men – it was considered a skilled job for educated men.

          With the expansion of typewriters and secretarial jobs, men shifted more to managerial and marketing jobs (Mad Men), and women filled the secretarial/typing jobs. Later, with the development of computers, more men returned to using keyboards, but tended to gravitate to the more high status computer programing jobs…. and on it goes.

          Caring jobs continue to have low status, unless its surgeons, specialists, etc.

    • QoT 1.2

      I don’t want to comment on the merits or otherwise of this case.

      Funny, that’s exactly what you did by trying to undermine the whole concept of establishing whether work is of equal value.

      See the Talley’s discrimination case as an example: the High Court was quite able to find that the two roles were equivalent in terms of the skills and experience required, except one was just coincidentally paid less and staffed with women.

      (Of course the truth is that a secretive cabal of lesbian witches cast magical spells around a cauldron to trick you into paying us millions while we sit around eating bonbons.)

      • alwyn 1.2.1

        The Talleys’ case was not a problem as they were ruled to be, effectively, the same job.
        There is no problem when people are doing the same job. The only problem is when you are trying to compare different jobs, and the comparison points become someones opinions.
        Is it really true about the cabal (your last sentence)?
        Wow I always thought it was a myth but it is now confirmed!

        • QoT

          But they weren’t doing the “same job”, alwyn, they were doing jobs which were effectively the same. And experts were able to assess this.

          And yes. The cabal totally exists which is why traditionally women-dominated jobs are now paid double what traditionally male-dominated jobs get. So this entire post is just a figment of your imagination.

  2. Tracey 2

    Thanks for posting on this Ben.

    If ou compare police training and salary and conditions with, say, nurses. You can get an idea of disparity between male and female value and recompense

    Nurses see death and blood and suffering, they clean up shit and urine, the work shifts…

    The disparity between this female dominated profession and the male dominated police begins with training. One has little training and is paid the other has three years and has to borrow.

    So, not as hard as we might think.

    • alwyn 2.1

      You would agree, I’m sure, that police “see death and blood and suffering, they clean up shit and urine, they work shifts”.
      So what? Both nurses and thepolice do these and other things but we simply get into a pointless wrangle if we start listing them. I suppose you could say that police have to know the law and nurses don’t. Again so what.
      My only real concern is how you compare DIFFERENT jobs. You can’t say, for example, that training takes longer and expect this to be the overiding component in job evaluation.
      On that basis you would probably have to pay a Catholic priest a couple of hundred thousand a year.
      Sorry but it is hard.

      • Actually nurses need to know quite a bit of law relevant to what they do, are required to work long or irregular hours, and the job can involve lifting people with enough frequency that honestly it has pretty high physical requirements. The comparison with police officers is not unreasonable and in some ways it’s harder to be a nurse.

  3. One Anonymous Knucklehead 3

    Great news, although the cynic in me is already wondering how this government will try and undermine the ruling.

  4. Mike S 4

    It’s great that the employment court has made this ruling. However I don’t see how it can be implemented in the real world? It’s my understanding that as long as an employee is being paid at least the minimum wage then a court can’t force an employer to pay them a certain rate. They can though rule for compensation in regards to gender discrimination so I guess that might be the form the extra pay would come in??

  5. Murray Olsen 5

    Good decision, and one where we on the left shouldn’t make the bosses’ arguments for them. They’ll try and undermine it all by themselves and we won’t get paid what we’re all worth until we get rid of the profit motive. For the life of me, I can’t see how I’m worth as much as a nurse, let alone more. I can see how I’m worth more than a cop, especially the ones who bury .22 cartridges in gardens and put Teina Pora in prison.

  6. xtasy 6

    I am afraid this is only a TINY achievement, and one reason is the low minimum wage. We have this issue of comparing wages, minimum wages, salaries and more, which often appear totally disconnected to the efforts and work put into it, by the workers concerned.

    While this may look like some achievement, it does not really address the sytemic issues, as the system is leaving carers and others underpaid, and the government gets away with it. Also they rely on the tax payers bailing them you, as the additional costs are portrayed ad prohibitive.

    So it is a dishonest debate and agenda, really. I expect a bit more than this, also from the writer.

  7. xtasy 7

    Why is it, in this country, so many desperate workers, get driven to extremes, they get sick, age quickly, get disparaged, destroyed and so on, while business “flourishes? There is a sick trend in NZ society, and it better be damned stopped.

    • Mike S 7.1

      Not just NZ society, most other western countries too. Corporate profits hit record highs all the time, even in the middle of the so called financial crisis, whilst workers wages stagnate or decrease in real terms. Greedy business owners are not sharing increased profits with their workers.

      Reminds me of something I read recently:

      They take our skills,
      They Take our labor,
      They take our knowledge,
      They take our pride,
      They take our talent,
      Our best ideas,
      They take our time,
      They take our lives.
      In the end
      They take our jobs,
      These ‘makers’ –
      Then turn around
      And call us , ‘takers’.

  8. tracey 8


    it appears you read my post but perhaps misunderstood my meaning. You asked how it could be measured and I gave you a simple comparison by example which points to underlying attitude.

    there is plenty of research on this. I will try to find time to post some for you.

    the legal profession does regular member surveys. For example to find out what lawyers with same qualifications and the same years legal experience are paid. In the last 20 years the difference in favour of men is 10k to 20k.

    whats hard is not the measuring but the changing of attitudes. Many employers do it but give themselves justifications to do it.

    saying something is too hard is what keeps the status quo… even when its not too hard. People like the easy option by nature and are instinctive ly resistant to change.

  9. tracey 9

    This kind of decision is one of many reasons this govt is anti judiciary. Parliament is supposed to society’s conscience and the judiciary the safety net when parliament fails.


    plus 1

    your addendum
    plus 100

  10. tracey 10

    You would agree, I’m sure, that police “see death and blood and suffering, they clean up shit and urine, they work shifts”.”

    Absolutely which is why I used the exsmples

  11. Foreign Waka 11

    Many societies have an approach where people become “economic units”. Women had and still have an underclass role in that hierarchical setting. Coupled with traditions and beliefs the result is that women are bestowed with the expectation that caring for the very young and old is “their role” after all. Of cause this includes the financial approach that this is to be unpaid. However, since women have become “economic units” this has changed somewhat and warrants now the lowest level of contribution (cynical). In the relevant case the hourly pay just reverberates that attitude. (spit on the floor).
    One should not forget that everybody will come to that stage in their lives where they depend on help as they once had at the beginning of the journey. To do this in dignity should be honored with an appropriate recognition within society. If one wants to compare the pay, compare it to a midwife. One helps with the start and the other one with the end of life.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

Public service advertisements by The Standard

Current CO2 level in the atmosphere