The equal pay amendment needs amending!
The current Equal Pay Bill creates more problems than it solves
The most recent statistics show a small improvement in the gender pay equity gap. However, if the current Equal Pay Amendment Bill becomes law without amendment, the Auckland Women’s Centre believes it will do little to facilitate narrowing the gap.
In August, Statistics New Zealand released figures showing the gender gap measured in average hourly earnings is 11.9%, an improvement from 13.9% last year. However, with the intersection of gender and ethnicity the earning-power imbalance becomes more extreme. The gender pay gap for a Māori woman is currently 22.1%! For an Asian woman it is 17.5%, and for a Pasifika woman it’s 25.5%! (CEVEP ethnicity gaps). This is the extreme discrimination this Bill needs to be able to address.
In addition, the AWC believes that the current Equal Pay Amendment Bill is counter-productive to its stated aim of eliminating sexist discrimination in pay. In other words: it would be a step backwards for women’s rights, including the likely end of sector-wide pay equity claims, such as the Kristine Bartlett care workers case.
As it stands, the Equal Pay Amendment Bill will introduce:
- Processes that diminish women’s right to easy access to the Employment Relations Authority to have the pay equity rate set
- Opportunities for employer feet-dragging and filibustering
(Fewer women will get their rights, if rights are only available via a nasty fight for years)
- A prohibition on industry-wide pay-equity bargaining
(Unless the employers agree…. yeah right)
- A prohibition on some good comparisons
(Which roles should mine be compared to, to ensure equity? Not just those held by men in my “female-dominated” sector, but also those held by men and women in “mixed” sectors. But the current Bill only allows comparators in my sector.)
In addition, the Bill does not establish an office tasked with pay transparency, the promotion of pay equity, and oversight of equal pay settlements. Without this, individuals, particularly those who aren’t union members, will not have access to the data required to make a successful claim; and unscrupulous employers could force their workers into “equal pay” agreements which are, in fact, not equal.
As promised in our Summer Quarterly, the Auckland Women’s Centre – coordinating the Pay Equity Coalition Auckland (PECA) – spoke to the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Equal Pay Amendment Bill in late February. We are sorry to report that the Government has not (yet) changed the Bill, despite our concerns, and the concerns of other petitioners, even though PECA consists of 21 organisations representing thousands of Aucklanders.
However, PECA, alongside many other groups and individuals, continue to advocate, and in August, the Council of Trade Unions published an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has very recently requested opinions on the Bill. We have hope that the Government is now listening to the concerns of women and unions throughout the country – watch this space.