This last week, from Saturday 12 August until Saturday 19 August, has been Equal Pay Week.
Its purpose is to draw attention to the need for fairness in the workplace, for everyone to have the same opportunities to advance their careers, and for pay equality regardless of one’s gender.
Women are currently underrepresented in higher level jobs in New Zealand and they are being paid significantly less than men (there was a gender pay gap of 12 percent last year) despite typically having the same or more qualifications than their male counterparts.
The week was composed of a variety of events occurring throughout the week across New Zealand, with Auckland hosting a march and rally on the 12th that was attended by Labour leader Jacinda Ardern. In Nelson, from Monday to Friday, Pomeroy’s Cafes charged men an extra 50c per coffee in order to draw attention to the wage gap. On Saturday the 19th, a tea party was held at the Exchange, with attendees invited to attend either dressed as a woman that inspires them or in the suffragette colours of green, purple and white. These events have been accompanied by the slogan “it’s time to pay the sisters the same as the misters”.
With 2017 being an election year, equal pay has become a topical issue across the country. So far there has been some success for equal pay in the National government’s care and support settlement that saw sizeable pay rises for care workers in aged care, disability and home support sectors.
Unfortunately, this settlement excludes mental health workers, who essentially do the same job as carers but are not being recognised for their efforts when they receive their pay packet, where they are paid just $16.50 an hour for tough and demanding work.
E tū, a democratic union that represents tens of thousands of people across numerous industries, fights for fair pay and working conditions. They are urging women to embrace Equal Pay week so they can continue to spread the message that women want equal pay and won’t settle for anything less. The group is currently focussing on equal pay for mental health workers. Jacinda Ardern and the Labour Party claim they will make sure mental health workers are a priority in pay equity negotiations, as they plan to rectify the inadequacies of the National Party’s aforementioned TerraNova equal pay settlement. Ardern has also stated that pay inequity is not something we should be facing in 2017, and that Labour is fully committed and will not rest until genuine pay equity for everyone, mental health workers and women alike, can be achieved in New Zealand.