Metiria Turei –
Women have been paid less than men for far too long but big steps have just been made to fix that in New Zealand last fortnight.
There has been a pay settlement in a historic pay-equity case, with 55,000 mostly female workers set to get a massive pay rise.
Payday has been hard fought for by women who work in the aged-care, home support and disability service sector, thanks to Kristine Bartlett, unions and supporters around the country.
The Green Party has been putting pressure on the government to get women a better deal. According to the New Zealand Nursing Council, more than 3000 nurses in New Zealand identify as Indian, and they are getting underpaid because it is a female-dominated industry.
Kristine Bartlett was working in a rest home, part of the union movement, and sick of being underpaid for her work.
She initiated a court case more than five years ago because the aged care sector has been underpaying workers because they are women.
Kristine is a Kiwi hero for her determination to see women paid more – despite government interventions and stalling – and so are the thousands of other women who have joined her in this fight.
The pay increases will not be backdated.
For Kristine Bartlett, the amount that she has been underpaid due to her gender is about $500,000 over her working life.
When we take into account the equal pay cases for workers in other female-dominated industries – school support staff, midwives, social workers – we start to get an idea of the billions of dollars that women have missed out on over their working lives.
Women deserve to be paid what they are worth, and it is definitely more than what they have been paid in the past.
The most lowly-paid workers in New Zealand should not have had to fund court case after court case, with the government opposing their efforts to see more pay.
But they did, and they won.
The government was legally bound under the Equal Pay Act to make a decent offer, and it is a good thing that now women like Kristine Bartlett will be paid better.
Green Party Bill
There is still work to be done to ensure all women are paid what they should be.
The Green Party has a Member’s Bill to see greater pay transparency for women when it comes up for its first vote on May 10, 2017.
The Bill would see gender pay transparency indexes published so that women know if they are being underpaid.
Women have the right to know if and by how much they are being underpaid so that they can work towards changing it.
We are asking all MPs to support this bill.
The Green Party is determined to see women, and the work that they do, valued more.
There are many Indian women in industries such as nursing and aged care, and they need to be paid more.
We can fix the gender pay imbalance in this country and ensure that every woman is paid what she’s worth.
But we need a government that will stand with women to ensure a fair deal.
Metiria Turei is Co-Leader of the Green Party of New Zealand.