The government’s controversial pay equity bill has received a wave of renewed criticism today, on the eve of its first official reading.
“The Government’s Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill is a mean-spirited attempt to limit our access to justice and fair pay, by putting stumbling blocks in the way of taking a pay equity claim,” said Lynda Stuart, president of NZEI Te Riu Roa.
“Voting for the Bill to go to select committee to get straightened out is not good enough,”
she continued. “It needs to be roundly rejected in order to send the message that women want progress on equal pay, not more stumbling blocks.”
NZNO industrial services manager Cee Payne agreed with Stuart and said the draft bill is a step backwards for women in New Zealand.
“The Bill as it is, currently puts the onus on women to prove inequity and introduces extra barriers for women to be paid fairly for their work,” she said. “I urge all political parties to question this and examine this proposition carefully.”
Erin Polaczuk, national secretary of the PSA, also agreed and said the legislation was not about pay equity but rather trying to shut it down.
“The Bill as it stands has cherry-picked the positive notes from the Joint Working Group’s recommendations and spun them alongside law changes that actually limit women’s ability to achieve pay free from discrimination,” she said.
“It’s completely incompatible with the actual recommendations of the JWG, and if it was already law, the care and support settlement for historically undervalued workers like Kristine Bartlett never could have come about,” she continued.
Polaczuk also suggested the government was deliberately trying to clamp down on future claims.
“It’s simply not ok to continue to underpay workers in female-dominated work just because the Government, as a large employer of underpaid women, is getting worried about the financial burden, or because employers in the wider economy want to continue to profit from the undervalued labour of women,” she argued.
“We’re calling on all of our politicians – particularly the women – to vote against this restrictive Bill, even if it means crossing the floor.”