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National’s short lived status as a supporter of pay equity

Written By: - Date published: 9:06 am, April 21st, 2017 - 25 comments
Categories: business, class war, discrimination, Economy, employment, poverty, spin, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, Unions, wages, workers' rights, you couldn't make this shit up - Tags: , , ,

That did not take long.

A day after National announced the reaching of an important deal with Etu concerning the pay of care workers and the granting of good sized pay increases so that they will be paid an adequate wage for their important work the wheels have started to come off the charm offensive.

Yesterday National released draft legislation designed to address pay equity concerns.  The draft bill is obviously a response to the decision in Terranova v Service and Food Workers Union.  A clue is in the first sentence of the discussion document which mentions the case.

To advance the issue the Government had previously set up a Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles to investigate the issue and report back.  The group including Industry and Union Representation and was chaired by Dame Patsy Reddy.  The draft bill is a result of the Group’s work, although clearly some of the provisions were not based on consensus.

It was clear to the JWG that the wage and salary comparison method was going to be all important in assessing whether pay equity is occurring.  From the associated Cabinet Paper recommending the draft Bill:

The JWG was unable to reach agreement on guidance for identifying comparators in terms of industry or sectoral proximity to the employees in the pay equity claim. We recommend supplementing the JWG proposals to require that comparators be drawn from within the business, similar businesses, or the same industry or sector when available and appropriate.

The JWG recommendations included this passage:

An examination of the work and remuneration of appropriate comparators may include:

i. male comparators performing work which is the same as or similar to the work at issue in circumstances in which the male comparators’ work is not predominantly performed by females; and/or

ii. male comparators who perform different work all of which, or aspects of which, involve skills and/or responsibilities and/or conditions and/or degrees of effort which are the same or substantially similar to the work being examined; and

iii. any other useful and relevant comparators.

The issue is important because the essence of pay equity concerns is that female dominated industries have lower wages and conditions than male dominated industries and there may be no simple way to compare the two.  A comparison with similar industries may not disclose the lack of pay equity because those associated industries may also be female dominated and paid poorly.

The issue is highlighted by Richard Wagstaff in this Stuff article:

However, Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff said it contained a “limiting mechanism” for choosing and agreeing comparators for claimants which was at odds with the existing Equal Pay Act, the recent Court of Appeal Judgement and was impractical.

Rather than allowing for the negotiating parties to proceed on the basis of a general agreement over comparable roles, it forces them into pre-negotiations to agree on specific roles, before mediation can begin.

It would ultimately impede women making claims for equal pay, and it was not the way comparator roles aided negotiations in the Bartlett case, Wagstaff said.

“Comparators are a crucial part of assessing whether pay inequity exists. Women need to be able to select the most appropriate comparator for their particular role regardless of who their employer happens to be,” he said.

“The fairest outcome is for the best and most relevant comparator to be selected in each circumstance. This Bill as it stands will trap many low paid women on discriminatory wage rates.”

The draft legislation states (clause 23(2)(d)) that “comparators from a different industry or sector may be selected for the assessment only if no other appropriate comparators exist”.  I believe this is the problem referred to by Wagstaff.  It is difficult to see how gender discrimination could have been proven if rest home workers were limited to compare their pay to workers in the home support or disability services sectors as an example.  If this was the applicable provision Wagstaff is right and Kristine Bartlett would have lost her case.

Clearly the Government is intending this choice.  After all it was alerted in the Cabinet Paper about the implications of doing so.

It is seeking to stop further pay equity decisions from occurring and to limit the implications of Kristine Bartlett and the SFWU’s deserved win.  Shame on it.

25 comments on “National’s short lived status as a supporter of pay equity”

  1. Carolyn_nth 1

    How do Nat ministers and their supporters sleep at night?

    Callous bunch that does not accept principles of equity. And who want some sections of society relegated to servitude and slave wages, no matter how skilled and essential their work.

    • Michael 1.1

      They know they have no chance of being replaced by anyone else. More to the point, isn’t this sort of underhand deceitfulness precisely that which we’ve all come to know and love from the B-team?

      • KJT 1.1.1

        If they stuff up too much, I.e. let workers have a greater share of the economy, they will simply be replaced by the other Neo-liberal party, in waiting, Labour. Who will be tasked with damping down workers expectations, again!

  2. The Fairy Godmother 2

    Disgusting. The minimum pay rate for an ECE teacher is $22 an hour. They have a bachelor’s degree. They don’t have enough time to do the ludicrous amount of accountability paperwork demanded by the government and feel pressured to do this in their own time. This job is very demanding and this mainly female workforce desperately needs a pay rise. Also teacher aides are very poorly paid. I think they should be on a similar rate to prison officers. They often work with children with major behavioral issues who can be quite violent. Schools are faced with the alternative of excluding such a student or somehow find a teacher aide to shadow such a student who will accept the 16 dollars an hour government funding allows.

  3. mosa 3

    All National party woman mps are conspicuous by their silence on this entire subject.

    I guess they are against equal pay for woman and will vote to support legislation designed to make sure that hard working underpaid females stay exactly where they are…underpaid and undervalued by making legal action to support their case almost impossible with these draft proposals.

    Also the cost in taking a case to court is expensive and the costs would be tough on a smaller union’s resource’s

    This is something Jacinda Adern should be directly campaigning on and really highlighting National woman mps who are supporting these unjust conditions.

  4. red-blooded 4

    It always looked too good to be true. These mean-spirited, tight-fisted assholes don’t give a bugger about pay equity – they’re much more concerned about costs. Let’s remember that many women employed in low-wage sectors ultimately source their pay from the government (even if they work for contracting companies, schools or child care centres). Worried about costs to the government?… How about holding off on tax cuts?

    They got the big positive headline the other day, even though they’d fought against this case as hard as they could. I really hope this balancing story gets as much media attention. It’s more complicated, though, so I don’t see it cutting through as easily.

    Bring on the election.

  5. greywarshark 5

    Peggy Seeger has a song I’m Gonna be an Engineer that everyone thinking about pay equity and respect between the genders should listen to. She is delightful and right to the point.

    and cartoonised
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qr8jFMXTioc

  6. Keith 6

    Like Zero hours that we were all told was consigned to sewer of history, but is now being tried on again by the fast food industry, pay equailty was always going to be a mirage. http://thedailyblog.co.nz/2017/04/07/fast-food-companies-seem-to-want-a-fight-i-say-bring-it-on/

    National milked the announcement two days ago like the benevolent progressive party they pretend they are, whilst fully knowing plans were being put in place to thwart it.

    Think about teaching, female dominated and badly paid especially considering the smount of work teachers must do outside the standard 8 hour day. The Nats will be shitting themselves.

    Life under National is never what the misleading adverts say they are, we should all know that by now! They cannot be trusted

  7. Rosemary McDonald 7

    Well. Bugger me dead.

    I was actually retching as Kristine Bartlett and Jonathon Coleman were cuddling up in a carefully orchestrated photo op the other day, as John Campbell waxed even more congratulatory than usual and all involved were sitting smug.

    As if it were job done.

    Fools.

    And really folks, are your memories that short?

    Have y’all forgotten what the Government did to family carers in response to losing against Atkinson and Others?

    (Or don’t we family carers count?… There were concerns from some of the unions at the time that if family carers were paid it would cost the jobs of ‘real’ carers.

    Despite the absolute FACT that in many cases, those of us who support a loved one 24/7 unpaid cannot take a break as there are simply not the ‘real’ carers available who can even remotely meet the very high and complex care needs of those we support.

    The only option being the horror of residential care.

    Have y’all forgotten that while we unpaid family carers were battling for our rights (and being shat upon from a great height in May 2013), disabled people were being abused and neglected (sometimes to death) in residential care by those ‘real’ carers who now have collectively been raised to near sainthood.)

    Spare me.

    Oh….and Labour could have addressed Pay Equity and paying family carers but chose not to.

    They’re ALL assholes.

    • adam 7.1

      Well summed up Rosemary McDonald.

      I don’t trust any of them, they think to much of money, and not of the people involved.

  8. SpaceMonkey 8

    This is just nasty and mean. How can anyone honestly believe we have a representative democracy when a Goverment responds to losing a legal case in this way? Disgusting.

  9. Hum 9

    Its an exposure draft you fool. This is what it is for, to flesh out inconsistencies etc. Ok, the tribalism on here is understandable but at least show some basic understanding of the process and how it works.

    • red-blooded 9.1

      Hey, Hum – I think we all understand that this is a proposal rather than the final version of the eventual Act. However, it reveals the real agenda of this government – to try to limit the flow-on effects of the settlement with paid carers. (And let’s remember that settlement was only reached because of fear of a more far-reaching decision from the courts.) Do you really see the essential issue here being remedied in the final Act? Because I don’t.

    • mickysavage 9.2

      It is not an inconsistency. It is a deliberate design fault. Read the cabinet paper I quote above. The Government is aware this is the result.

    • SpaceMonkey 9.3

      You mean it designed to test the waters and subequent reaction. If no one hollers vociferously then it will continue on as is.

  10. greywarshark 10

    In the USA the economy is down partly because people aren’t being paid enough, and are becoming wary of spending, paying their debts down and shrinking the consumer economy. And women though more have entered the workforce, are in female-heavy such as care roles and retail, much more than men.

    https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/04/unemployment-rate-growth-trump/

    The Jobless Economy
    “In the US case, the long-term problem is that the squeeze on wages and living standards that began in the early 1980s succeeded in raising corporate profitability (and in making the rich very much richer), but at the expense of undermining the foundations of an economy dependent on high levels of mass consumption. That contradiction was resolved for a while by rampant levels of borrowing, which compensated for stagnant wage and salary income.

    But with the financial crisis of 2007–8, that aggressive borrowing was thrown into reverse, and households began to reduce their debts — which made sense at the level of the individual household, but put a lid on consumer demand.

    That problem could be mitigated by policies to shift income downward, [upward?] through higher wages and more generous spending on social programs and infrastructure, but those routes look politically impossible. In other words, the neoliberal model has run out of steam, but there’s nothing to take its place….

    Why has the US economy failed to generate enough jobs to return to pre-2007 levels of employment? (I’ll bracket the gender angle for now, except to say that long-term structural changes have taken a toll on male-heavy industries like manufacturing while they’ve boosted female-heavy ones like retail and health care.) It’s not that robots are taking our jobs. Productivity growth is close to zero now — a sharp contrast with the years leading up to the 2000 employment peak, when it was very strong, as was employment growth….

    And yet another explanation is that despite copious profits, firms are shoveling vast pots of cash to their executives and shareholders rather than investing in capital equipment and hiring workers.

    From 1952 to 1982, nonfinancial corporations distributed 17 percent of their internal cash flow (profits plus depreciation allowances) to shareholders; that rose to about 30 percent in the 1980s and 1990s, and to 48 percent since 2000. (In 2016, the average was an incredible 64 percent.)

    This is one result of the shareholder revolution that began in the early 1980s: the whole point of corporations’ existence is to raise the stock price and make their shareholders, who contribute literally nothing for all their taking, richer. More on all that in a future post too.

    Our new issue, “Journey to the Dark Side,” is out now. Subscribe today.”

  11. greywarshark 11

    That piece on the Jobless Economy is by Doug Henwood, sorry I didn’t get that in.

  12. Skeptic 12

    My first reaction to this news was – surely they can’t be serious, but no they are going to take this proposal forward to “test its feasibility”. I take from that double-speak that if there isn’t much resistance it’ll go through pretty much unchanged.

    My questions are:

    How does the real impact of the proposals get sufficiently well known as to rouse the necessary resistance?

    What sort of polling showing massive unpopularity will be sufficient to get meaningful change to the proposals?

    Because it is patently obvious to me that unless there is polling that suggests a substantial voter shift from traditional national support, we’re dead in the water.

  13. Antoine 13

    Hehe that was indeed a rather short lived flirtation with cross industry pay equity

  14. KJT 14

    National MP’s funders must be absolutely furious, that their puppets let this one through.
    Gross incompetence!

  15. ianmac 15

    The first part of Media Report this morning was about the Equity issue. How come little was said in the Media about how Government, Business and the Unions sorted it out? And doesn’t that Mike idiot sound pathetic when played alongside better informed?
    http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player?audio_id=201841249

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