An important legal case affecting thousands of low-paid women workers commenced on Monday morning in the Auckland Employment Court.
The case, taken by the Service and Food Workers Union supported by the Nurses Organisation, focuses on long-term caregiver Kristine Bartlett and whether her pay rate of $14.43 an hour is consistent with the Equal Pay Act 1972.
Her employer Terranova Homes and Care Limited says that Kristine and the other 110 female caregivers working in its residential care homes do receive equal pay because they get paid the same as their 6 male caregiver colleagues. The SFWU says it does not.
The Union’s argument is that the Equal Pay Act 1972, which extended the 1960 Government Service Equal Pay Act to the private sector, is designed not just to bring equal pay between male and female pay rates for the same work in the same workplace, but has provisions to apply a broader application.
It is this broader application that must apply for female-intensive occupations such as caregiving as the few male caregivers and their pay rates are largely bound up by the gender segmentation that exists in this sector. In other words, they are treated as “honorary females”.
However, this is not just the union’s view. It is envisaged in section 3(1)(b) of the Equal Pay Act, which says that in female-dominated occupations the Employment Court needs to assess what a male worker would be paid for the same skills, responsibility, service and degree of effort if the gender segmentation did not exist.
The International Labour Organisation has regularly asked the New Zealand Government about the lack of cases to apply pay equity in New Zealand (especially in the private health sector) given the lack of progress on closing the our male-female wage gap.
While the Government has argued that it has a legal framework to deliver pay equity we will see from this Employment Court case whether it it is able to deliver justice for the 30,000 caregivers that it funds.
lprent: For those of you who don’t know of him, John Ryall is the national secretary of the Servo’s. He asked for a author login to express his views when he wants to make them known*. Refrain from the traditional and rather repetitive sport of unionist baiting because I’m kind of busy at work at present trying to get away to a holiday in warmer climes. Right now I’m far more inclined to moderate by banning than educating.
* After some difficulty with an obsolete recapture plugin preventing users being added.