Equal Pay

It’s official! The Equal Pay Settlement has been signed by the union and Government. Care and support members around the country can celebrate this historic deal.

 The E tū flags flew high on 18 April with the announcement of the settlement, which spells the end of poverty wages for care and support members in aged care, disability services and home support.

 Many affected E tū members including equal pay hero Kristine Bartlett joined a big crowd of supporters that met in Wellington to mark this historic occasion.

One of the biggest pay increases in New Zealand history, the settlement will transform the lives of 55,000 care and support workers.

It’s been five years since E tū lodged this case on behalf of Kristine Bartlett but it’s been worth the wait.

Kristine Bartlett v Terranova was a landmark legal case that went all the way to New Zealand’s highest court. E tū led the charge on one of the most important employment law developments in living memory.

The case was centred on the Equal Pay Act 1972, in particular the following Clause:

S3 (1) (b) …. “male employees with the same, or substantially similar skills, responsibility, and service, performing the work under the same, or substantially similar, conditions and with the same substantially similar, degrees if effort.”

The case was brought by the Service & Food Workers Union, now E tū, on behalf of Kristine Bartlett who has worked as a caregiver in the aged care sector for 23 years and who receives close to the minimum wage.

Our victory has set an historic precedent, by getting the courts to accept that they need to look outside women-dominated industries to determine “equal pay” for women. They need to ask what a man would be paid for the same, or substantially similar: 

The union successfully argued (from the Employment Court right up to the Supreme Court!) that the low pay in these sectors is a product of historic systemic gender-based discrimination. Even though men and women in this sector are on the same pay rates, they’re paid less than people doing work with similar skills and responsibilities in other male dominant occupations.

E tū argued that for caregivers to receive true equal pay, it was necessary to look beyond Kristine’s workplace and the whole care and support sector to find a comparator ‘male’ occupation to determine the equal pay rate that caregivers should receive. This is because the whole sector is undervalued and men working in the sector are paid the same low wages as well. The decision held that the Equal Pay Act 1972 required equal pay for work of equal value, not simply the same pay for the same work.

After the Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal’s decision, the case was set to go back to the Employment Court for a ruling on the rate of pay for caregivers.

Before the Employment Court could hear the case, the Government approached the union parties to settle the case outside of court. And after 18 months of negotiations we reached a settlement!

Care and support workers, union and non-union, are now voting on the settlement at paid meetings across the country. E tū members are encouraged both to vote ‘yes’ to the settlement and to use this opportunity to make sure as many people as possible join E tū. Then they can claim this victory with us.

Click here to read the settlement