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Care worker deal a great step towards equality

Closing The Gap Thursday 20 April 2017, 09:08AM

Media release from Closing The Gap

The proposed equal pay settlement to lift the wages of 55,000 care and support workers is a huge step toward closing some of the income gaps that contribute to inequality in New Zealand, Peter Malcolm, spokesman for the income equality project Closing the Gap, said today. It is great news for them and all of us as this increase in purchasing power will flow through to the wider economy as these workers manage to pay for family living costs that are presently unaffordable. Invariably any wage increase for the poorly paid is good for us all.

This move also now sets a benchmark for other employers in industries that under-value their staff. Unfortunately too many occupations in New Zealand rely on low wages to maximise profit. Malcolm said that private sector employers must now respond to this lift in wages for the aged care sector by paying competitive wages to compete for staff. "No longer can low wages be tolerated" he said. "Not only will this reduce inequality but it will provide a boost for the whole economy"

The settlement also highlights how important labour unions and collective action are to the creation of a fairer, more equal society, he said.

“New Zealand’s gender pay gap has been a persistent problem, and while this settlement isn’t the end of the struggle, it will boost some of the hardest working yet lowest paid workers in the country,” he said.

Women along with Māori, Pacific and immigrant workers are over-represented in insecure lower paid work, and carry out more than their share of unpaid caring and support work.

“As much as this is about paying people fairly, it is also about who and what we value,” Malcolm said. “The Kristine Bartlett case that led to this outcome has forced us to take a hard look at how we value those who do society’s most important work: taking care of our fellow citizens.”

“We’d challenge any of the over-paid CEOs in New Zealand to spend a week doing full-time care work, and then consider if what they do is really worth 10 or 20 times more.”

Closing the Gap applauds the workers and unions and advocates who have worked on this case and this issue for so long. “We hope this success brings the work of other underpaid, undervalued groups to the forefront,” Malcolm said.

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