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Where to next on pay equity/equal pay?

This blog is by Cee Payne, Industrial Services Manager for NZNO. Cee represented NZNO as part of the cross union bargaining team in the hard – won settlement offer for caregivers. Here she outlines some issues with the new proposed law, and what NZNO members can do to make it better.

IMG_5116Excitement at the pay offer settlement announcement for caregivers. Cee is pictured centre in the red skirt in front of Memo Musa, NZNO CE, Grant Brookes NZNO President at left, and NZNO caregiver members.

Pay equity/equal pay has been on a roller coaster ride in the last few weeks in New Zealand. First, we had the historic announcement of the Government’s $2 billion offer of settlement for Kristine Bartlett’s pay equity case for caregivers. The mood from caregivers across the motu was one of total relief and celebration. These women have been waiting so long on the minimum wage or close to it for better recognition of their value. It felt like the confetti had barely settled the very next day when the Government announced they were introducing a new draft Employment (Pay Equity/Equal Pay) law. This law includes a new ‘principle’ –the ‘proximity principle’ – that could have stopped Kristine’s case from ever happening

The mood of celebration turned into a gasp of disbelief from many of our members, who understandably worry about what this means for them. Unions were just as upset at both the message and the timing. The really annoying thing is that apart from this problem and a few other issues we can improve on, the new law sets out a better and easier process for making future pay equity/equal pay claims. It means other groups of women don’t have to go through many expensive rounds of court battles to achieve pay equity/equal pay.

I was one of the negotiators on the pay equity settlement for care and support workers and on the cross union, government and business equal pay principles working group. We had nearly two full – on years of research, meetings, and consultation to get the result we did for care and support workers. And although it was a long process, I believe the principles we used can work, if they are not restricted by this new ‘proximity principle’. In fact, New Zealand will probably have the best pay equity/equal pay law in the world if we can sort this out.

Kristine and the negotiation team signing the terms of settlement of the pay equity offer for caregivers in the Beehive, Monday the 2nd of May 2017. Cee is signing on behalf of NZNO.

Pay equity is being paid fairly for different jobs that are similar, and equal pay is being paid the same as men for the same work. What the Government is proposing for pay equity is that for women in historically female dominated jobs you have to first find a relevant male-dominated job to compare yours to in your own workplace. Then if there is no relevant job available, you can look in your own industry before you can look outside your sector at other jobs done mostly by men with the same or similar skills, training and responsibilities. So for Kristine Bartlett for example, her employer wanted to argue she should be compared to a gardener working at a rest home. But wages are low across the whole aged care sector because it is female dominated, so her union E tū thought she should be compared to a Corrections Officer-a better fit for her skills, responsibility, effort and conditions of work. These male dominated jobs are called ‘comparators’.

Finding the best comparator or even multiple comparators can be a long process but it’s an important one to get right. There will be no perfect male-dominated equivalent, so you might need to take one job for the qualifications, another for the effort, and a third for similar conditions of work to make your case. NZNO believes it’s really important we find the best job, not the physically closest, especially since so much of the health sector is female dominated. Otherwise, equal pay cases could be artificially restricted by the same discrimination we are trying to re-balance.

The good news is it’s not too late. The Government is taking submissions on the new law until the 11th of May before it has to start going through parliament. The more people that write to them, the better chance of removing this new principle to get the fairest comparators. It is imperative the Government passes the best pay equity/equal pay law in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

We don’t know yet which other parts of the membership could be eligible for cases in the future, or if police, engineers, or any other job would be the best ‘comparator’. NZNO is committed to 100% of our members who are performing work historically undertaken by women achieving pay equity/ equal pay. There are existing pay inequalities between different groups of our membership, and we need to carefully go through each group once we have the new law. Any case of course would involve significant consultation with and campaigning from members, just like we did with caregivers.

But right now the most important thing for all future cases is getting a fair and sustainable law that works. For that we need your support. If you feel passionate about women being paid for their worth and ending gender discrimination forever, write to the Government right now and tell them why you don’t support the ‘proximity principle’ before they write it into the law. Send us a copy of what you said too by emailing nurses@nzno.org.nz. It could be the best invested 5 minutes of your life.

 


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Caregivers, we’re worth it!

Tammie Bunt is a caregiver who wants all her colleagues to know they are worth $26 an hour. She says it’s about time we know our worth and get it.

Film-Colour-162Here in Aotearoa New Zealand, our population is aging, and that means a greater need for caregivers, health care assistants and nurses in both the residential and home-based aged care sector.

The women (and it mostly is women) who look after our elders in the aged care sector are devalued and underpaid, and it’s been that way forever. Because they are women, and “women’s work” has traditionally been seen by society as somehow worth less than men’s. Ridiculous, right!?

Talking to many caregivers and health care assistants and they will tell you they don’t come in to the industry for money. People get into it because they are caring and compassionate people who want to make a difference in people’s lives. It doesn’t mean they should be paid less!

Today it appears the average qualification in caregiving is only worth about 10 cents depending on who you’re working for. Most caregivers are earning the minimum wage or just above it, even after they have done their aged care qualifications.

In 2012 Kristine Bartlett stepped up in a way no one else had in the industry. She’s a caregiver with over 20 years’ experience and she’s still only earning just above the minimum wage. Kristine and her union, the Service and Food Workers Union (now E tū) took on the big guns to do something about valuing caregivers and the role they play in the community. She believes we should be recognised financially, that the thanks we get is lovely but not enough.

NZNO joined the case too and one of the discussions they had was about how much caregivers should get paid. Comparisons have been made to other male dominated professions and how the Equal Pay Act isn’t working the way it was intended. There were articles stating caregivers were worth $26 an hour. I think that’s fair but many of my colleagues cannot believe they are worth $26 – it seems like so much money!

74464_494373352974_569252974_6879867_8118614_nWe are worth that! Why are we saying to ourselves that we aren’t? Think about it…

  • We gently listen to everything a person wants to say as their last hours take hold. We hold the hand of a person whose last breath is only seconds away.
  • We help our residents find some purpose to get through today… whether it’s via an activity or simply just getting out of bed to face the day.
  • We make sure each person has clean clothing on and that they are appropriately dressed. We assist them with their continence needs.
  • We are warriors for their safety by making sure they are safe in their surroundings.
  • We’re highly qualified.
  • And also, we give up many of our weekends for our residents. We miss our kids’ sporting events, family birthdays and other social events because our clients’ needs are not 4 hours a day. They need us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

I am relatively new in the industry and was somewhat dumped into the job due to personal circumstances two years ago. I came from a market research background and was paid well better there, sitting in front of a computer using a virtual program with only buttons to click. I then went into the cleaning business and ended up on far more for that than I am in my current position. My shock at how undervalued people who work in the aged care sector is was flabbergasting!

We have heard all the excuses, from the Government and the big names in the aged care industry, “We don’t get enough funding”, “We don’t get a lot of return from aged care”, “We can’t afford it” and on and on… It’s time for the excuses to stop and the action to happen.

I think the Government needs to get on with it!

And the other thing that needs to happen starts with us.

We do an important job, we have qualifications, we love and care for our clients and we are worth $26 an hour! Believe it sisters.


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Trading places, part III

Joys and Perils of Caregiving

We are re-blogging this article by Jan Logie with her kind permission.

It was a real joy and privilege to be able to do a “job swap”, organised by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, with caregiver Dilani Perera. You can read about it here but I just want to share a personal view of it and a couple of stories that residents told me.

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I’ve never been a paid caregiver. My primary memory until this experience was as a child singing carols and visiting at the old folks homes in Invercargill (yes I was that kind of child). I can still remember the large empty room with the edges full of old people sitting and staring out from their immobile chairs. I never associated those old people with any possible future of my own but I was still a bit scared and horrified by the vulnerability and a terrible aching stasis.

So it was really wonderful to spend some time with Dilani who is so very generous, warm and loves caring for people. Her favourite part of the job is helping people with the most intimate tasks. I’m sure it’s not because those jobs are the most fun but rather because it means so much to the residents to have someone they trust.

When I went back on National Caregivers Day, one of the residents Sylvie read a poem to the caregivers. It brought a tear to my eye. I can’t remember it all but the last line was, roughly, ‘if I was to scatter roses at your feet in gratitude, I would need your help.’ When I spoke to Sylvie afterwards she reinforced this saying that she really doesn’t have the words to describe what it is like to be so dependent.

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I spoke to another resident Thomas, who had been given two days to live about a year ago but was pushing on. From our chat I learnt that he had previously been a senior public servant and was still absolutely engaged in what was happening politically in New Zealand. We had a really good chat about the state of our nation.

The whole team at Enliven, is a wonderfully multicultural team of staff originating from many continents. Thomas indeed commented on this and said how wonderful it was to live in a place where you really felt the world was getting on. I think he described it as a functional United Nations. How wonderful is that.

He read a letter of thanks to the caregivers, and then needed rescuing while trying to return to his seat as his legs stopped working. It was impressive to watch the caregiver work together to avert any accident and ensure Thomas was able to recover calmly.

My brain resists truly understanding what it must be like to have lived a full life having grown into yourself and then find yourself so completely dependent on strangers. Kindness surely has never been more important. If your caregiver is inattentive or grumpy, you could end up physically hurt or maybe even worse, stuck in a place of complete misery.

These caregivers are paid the bare minimum wage and it would be very easy for them to be grumpy and resentful. It is a testament to the good of people that after 16 years Dilani and others are still fully engaged and focused on caring for their “extended family”. They bloody well deserve to be paid and valued a whole lot more than they are now.


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Trading places, part II

 

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Yesterday I went to Parliament with a couple of lovely colleagues and a couple of awesome caregiver delegates.

We had a plan: to share our stories with a group of MPs, to hear about an MP’s work life and to get a commitment from them to help us achieve equal pay.

Janine works at a Harbourview in Papakowhai. She’s got 17 years’ experience as a caregiver and she earns $17 an hour. Janine joked about that being a dollar a year – we all laughed with her – but it’s actually not that funny. I guess when you’re being paid so little, black humour is a tool to get you through the week.

Dilani works at Cashmere Home in Johnsonville. Her shift yesterday started at 5am. By the time we got to Parliament at 12.30pm she was pretty tired. Dilani tells it like it is, when we asked her what she thought MPs actually did, she cracked up. “They sit in flash seats and yell at each other!” Later on we went to “Question Time” and discovered she was exactly right – for that bit of their job, at least.

Going to Parliament and visiting members of Parliament is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many New Zealanders and a really big deal. Neither Dilani nor Janine were phased in the least; they both knew what they wanted to say to MPs and what they wanted to know. They were confident in themselves and able to talk eloquently about both their working lives as caregivers and issues in the aged care sector generally.

We went through security (just like at an airport) and waited for our Labour Party host on big leather couches in the Beehive. Matt from Kris Faafoi’s office met us and escorted us through to Parliament House and up the antique lift to the 3rd floor.

We did the usual hand-shaking, smiling and shuffling around – Who should sit where? What’s the best angle for taking photos? Yes, I’d love a glass of water, thanks.

We ended up with Janine and Dilani sitting on either side of MP David Clark, which was perfect. David, Dilani and Janine chatted away like they’d known each other for years.

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Another couple of MPs, Kris Faafoi and Jenny Salesi raced back from their respective Select Committee duties and joined us soon after that.

The conversation ranged widely. From comparing pay and conditions of the two different roles to traversing issues around training, especially the lack of training for the kind of palliative care that happens much more often now in residential aged care.

As we left the office to go to our next appointment in Bowen House Deilani and Janine commented on the authenticity of the meeting. They felt like something really meaningful had happened in the room. I guess they noticed because it wasn’t what they had expected. We were all, MPs and caregivers alike, able to be ourselves, warm and human. I believe that when we take the time to “get” each other, that’s how change and progress happens.

 

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Jessie from Jan Logie’s office came to meet us at the leather couches to take us through the Beehive, underneath the street and then back up into Bowen House. I suppose if you work there you get used to it all but for us it was an eye-opener! The art! The corridors! The people walking swiftly and purposefully!

The Green’s office didn’t seem to have that frantic vibe – we were greeted warmly by three women MPs, who had arranged a lovely kai for us.

Dilani and Jan had already made a connection earlier in the week and it showed. They picked up their conversation where they’d left off and Dilani invited Jan to their Caregiver Week celebration at Cashmere.

MP Catherine Delahunty spoke movingly of the difference caregivers had made to her family as they went through the long farewell to a loved one with dementia. She said, “We didn’t need those skills because you have them. You should be paid properly for them.” She also said, “Bankers, no! Caregivers, yes!” Her statement clearly resonated with the caregivers.

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MP Julie Anne Genter shared her diary with us and I think we were all surprised at how jam-packed an ordinary MPs day is. Jenn asked Janine and Dilani afterwards whether they would want an MP’s job. It took less than a quarter of a second for them both to exclaim, “NO WAY!” Dilani said she loves being a caregiver, and she’d love to be paid fairly as well.

At ten to two the bells started ringing and the MPs jumped up, wished us a swift but warm farewell and departed for the House. They called, “Stay and finish the food!” So we did. And had a coffee and a debrief.

We all had smiles on our faces, and ready laughter. Making a difference doesn’t need to be dreary and formal. We made a difference yesterday and it was awesome!

We’re part of a movement for equality and we were all proud to add our contribution yesterday. When Dan dropped us back at work I really wanted to give everyone a hug (but I didn’t, because I’m not that kind of person).
By Liz Robinson, NZNO Communications Adviser.


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International Women’s Day 2016

2016 Womens DayBy our representative on the CTU Women’s Council, Erin Kennedy and organiser, Georgia Choveaux.

The 8th of March is International Women’s Day. Like much of what is good in the world, this day was bought to you by women who had the courage and conviction to demand fairness and dignity in their community and workplaces. They were, of course, union women. So today, we look back to see just how far we union women have advanced fairness and dignity in our community. We also let you know, we union women have not finished yet!

International Women’s Day honours the struggles of women worldwide, and originated with a strike by garment workers in New York in 1857. The strikers, who were seeking better working conditions and a 10-hour day, were broken up by the police. Fifty-one years later, on 8 March 1908, needles trades workers marched again, honouring the 1857 strikers and calling for an end to sweatshops and child labour.

At the same time New Zealand union women were fighting battles of their own. An early battle New Zealand women won was the right to choose to work. Not everyone was quite as clever as our early union sisters; many thought a woman’s place was exclusively in the home. In 1890 Dr Stenhouse of Dunedin cautioned against women working, even noting that women working led to vice.

“The tendency of overwork is unquestionably to lead to vice. The health is reduced and when the constitution is enfeebled the mind is not so able to resist temptation in any form.”   

While women won the right to work, the idiotic view that a woman’s place was primarily in the home kept women’s wages artificially low and locked women out of certain industries entirely. It did this by creating the idea that it was only important that men’s wages could support a family. This devastated women’s wages: up until World War Two New Zealand women earned half of what men did.

But again courageous union women campaigned tirelessly to have their skills fairly remunerated. They won the Government Services Act 1960 and the Equal Pay Act 1972. Their victories have bumped up working women’s pay significantly. But we are not there yet.  According to Statistics NZ, for every dollar men aged between 25 and 64 earn today, women made just under 86 cents. Yet here again, unions and union wāhine are fighting to address this inequity.

Aged care worker and hero Kristine Bartlett, backed by her union, E tū,   lodged a successful equal pay claim against her employer TerraNova, arguing that aged care bosses were breaching the Equal Pay Act 1972 by not paying her for the skills of her job; rather they were paying her gender. The Government has now set up a working group to develop principles for dealing with claims under the Act, and legal cases filed by E tū and the New Zealand Education Institute are on hold till the end of this month, when the working group is due to present its principles.

The legal acknowledgement that the insultingly low wages in traditional female dominated occupations are unlawful is a huge victory and one that will smash the historic hangover women’s wages have been suffering from. Union wāhine will be leading this work and leading these wins. Which is exactly where we they belong, and have been for the last hundred and fifty years.

So here’s to union wāhine  – fighting the good fight since forever!

 


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Equality – because we can’t live on love

Equal pay day NZNOYesterday was Equal Pay Day – the day where women in New Zealand start working for free, until the end of the year. We held an Equal Pay Day picnic at Parliament to mark the occasion.

We celebrated the success of our campaign to get commitment and support for equal pay from MPs across all political parties – the biggest cross-party commitment to end gender-discrimination of pay ever made. Over a thousand people from all over the country sent their stories to women MPs; and each story highlights a very personal reason why equal pay is a “must have”, not a “nice to have”.

Equal Pay is an unstoppable force. Now is the time for us all to decide whether we want to be on the side of fairness, justice and equality… or not.

NZNO industrial services manager Cee Payne spoke at the picnic. You can watch her speech here, and the transcript is below:

Haere Mai and a big warm welcome to the equal pay picnic at Parliament. Thank you for adding your voice in unity today with others who seek equality for women: equality for women in all spheres of our lives.

IMG_3713Courageous people such as Kristine Bartlett, Michelle Payne & Justin Trudeau and our wonderful Lower Hutt resthome worker Kristine Bartlett. Kristine, in her Terranova Case for Equal Pay said, “I love our residents – I love where I am working – and making people happy – they are people who need love and support. We caregivers feel so deeply about our job but we can’t live on love. Our employers disrespect our compassion”.

Who joined with me in a big whoop last week when Michelle Payne, the first woman to win the Melbourne Cup in its 155 year history, and wearing the colours of the suffragette movement – purple, white and green, said “I want to say to everyone else, get stuffed because women can do anything and we can beat the world!”?

And then to cap it off newly elected Prime Minister of Canada Justine Trudeau made the decision to give Canada it’s first Cabinet with equal numbers of women and men. When he was asked to explain his decision around gender parity he responded simply with “Because it’s 2015”.

IMG_3805It is 2015 and today 10 November is a symbolic day. 86% of 2015 is over, finished today.

In 2015 women in Aotearoa still earn only 86% of men’s pay. Please give a big round of applause for our coffee cart vendor Espresso Rescue -they are offering coffees for women at 86% of the regular price today.

Would you feel short changed if 2015 was to finish today? Like Michelle Payne – the women in Aotearoa have felt short changed for over 150 years!

We are relying on you to use your voice and shift women’s pay in NZ to 100%

We are determined to go all the way for equal pay and end this injustice.

12232997_10153835485860992_1300725150_n31 members of parliament across five political parties have told us we can rely on them too. They have pledged to pay the job not the gender and to never support gender discrimination in pay… Each of you thank you.

It has been said Rosa Parks was the “Queen Mother of a movement”, whose single  act of heroism sparked the movement for freedom, justice and equality. Her greatest contribution is that she told us that a regular person can make a difference.”

The women of NZ are relying on you.

Thank you, each of you, for making a difference today.


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A visit to MP Jackie Dean

From left: Robyn Hayes, Jackie Dean and Jo Wibrow

NZNO organiser Simone Montgomery and delegates aged care delegates Robyn Hayes and Jo Wibrow visited MP Jackie Dean at her electorate office yesterday. They knew it was the day before Equal Pay Day – the day women in New Zealand start working for free – and were hoping Jackie would sign our Equal Pay pledge. Here’s Simone’s account of the visit:

I met up with a slightly nervous Jo and Robyn for a quick fortifying shot of caffeine, before we met with Jackie Dean the National MP for Waitaki, to invite her to sign the Equal pay pledge. We visited Jackie in her very blue office, she was very personable and welcomed the delegate’s presentation.

Jo wrote a fantastic speech outlining that she has worked as a caregiver for the past ten years, how much she loves the job and works very hard caring for her residents at their end of their life. Jo outlined the sorts of duties she preformed and the emotional toll it can take on you when you constantly loose residents that you have become attached too.

Jackie listened carefully to Jo’s speech and the questions that Jo asked of her. Jo asked, ‘who will be there to look after you?’ ‘Do you agree that the Equal Pay campaign is important for low paid caregivers?’ and ‘Would you please sign the pledge as a show of support for Equal Pay?’

Jackie absolutely agrees with the equal pay principal and totally endorses the Equal Pay Campaign. She also acknowledged that she was in a privileged position where her job does enjoy pay equity.

Jackie shared with us that when she was a student in Palmerston North, she did work as a caregiver and felt very empathetic and understood the nature of the job and that she does think about the question Jo asked, who will be there for her when it’s her turn in an Aged Care Facility.

She did however applaud the manner in which this campaign is being run with no ‘argy bargy’ and harsh actions and felt that this was getting the message out in a very constructive manner. Jackie went on to discuss the fact that there has been significant improvements to the mileage payments for home based caregivers and that all these gains push the door open for further improvements in remuneration for all caregivers.

Jo and Robyn discussed with Jackie their personal situations and that they both do not stay in the job not for the money, but for the love of the residents.  They told Jackie what their hourly rates were, the responsibilities they held and that there it is essentially a ‘dead end’ job, ie it does not progress into being an EN or RN. Jo mentioned about a caregiver at Iona that had started when she left school at the age of fifteen and was still there forty years later and she is not paid fairly for her experience and skills.

Overall, Jo and Robyn gave a fantastic and heartfelt presentation to Jackie, but we failed in our goal of getting the pledge signed. However Jackie did keep the pledge and promised to find out if she could sign it and to ring Jo back next week. Here’s hoping.

Update 11 November – we’ve just heard that Jackie Dean has signed the pledge! Great work Jo and Robyn – it really does work when we tell our stories with honesty and passion.