Equal Pay Case Negotiations Positive Step
By Simon Wallace, NZACA Chief Executive
The Government’s announced that it will facilitate negotiations between unions and employers to settle caregiver equal pay claims. This is a positive move.
The landmark Equal Pay Case being taken by caregiver Kristine Bartlett and the Service & Food Workers Union has significant ramifications not just for NZACA members, which represent 90% of the aged residential care sector, but potentially for a whole range of other female-dominated sectors.
NZACA will take an active role in the Ministry of Health-led negotiation process, which is expected to last several months.
At the same time we will continue to vigorously defend the Equal Pay Case on behalf of our sector. This is now scheduled to return to the Employment Court early next year – a date has yet to be determined.
That case claims caregivers are paid less than equivalent employees based on gender. That is incorrect. Pay is based on the market and the ability to pay.
Caregivers working in aged residential care homes are paid on average $15.30 an hour and the Union has talked about increasing that to $26 an hour.
Our calculations show the sector would need to find an additional $500 million annually to increase caregiver rates to this level. That is clearly unsustainable and could force homes out of business, resulting in job losses and a lack of beds at a time when the number of New Zealanders requiring aged residential care is increasing.
Our members are good employers. They want to pay caregivers and other staff more for the important work they do, but they are hamstrung by a contract with the Government which funds homes for the care they deliver. That funding is insufficient for our members to increase wages, which account for up to 70% of their costs.
The Government undervalues the work of caregivers in private aged-care homes, paying them on average $2 less an hour than those working in District Health Board-run facilities.
At the same time NZACA defends the Equal Pay Case we will continue to lobby for greater Government funding for our sector, which cares for New Zealand’s elderly and most vulnerable citizens.