Pay equity working group dissolved and ‘no longer needed’ – Minister

National MP Nicola Willis

Public Services Minister Nicola Willis says government agencies now have the expertise to negotiate pay equity.
Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

The pay equity task force working for equal pay for women is being disbanded.

Three years ago, the Labor government set up a taskforce to help government agencies navigate the Equal Pay Act to support pay equity bargaining.

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Public Service Minister Nicola Willis said the Public Service Commission was consulting staff on the proposed dissolution of the pay equity task force.

“In recent years, a substantial number of public sector claims have been resolved and the working group has supported agencies to develop their expertise and knowledge of their obligations,” he said.

“It is a sign of success that the process for resolving pay equity claims has matured to the point where the same level of governance and facilitation support from the task force is no longer required.”

The proposal would affect six roles.

But the nurses union said the proposal highlighted the government’s “misdirected priorities”.

The government appeared to be transferring its pay equity responsibilities to public sector agencies, Nurses Organization chief executive Paul Goulter said.

“The demise of the task force will bring with it a huge loss in terms of knowledge and skills needed to ensure that women do not continue to be victims of gender-based pay discrimination,” Goulter said.

“These skills were of great benefit to both employers and the unions representing their employees in resolving pay equity issues.”

He said the task force’s work was still incomplete and the government should reverse the decision.

“Rather than dismantling the mechanisms we need to achieve pay equity, we would like to see the government actually deliver on its pre-election promise to pay all nurses equally, committing strongly to establishing pay equity across the funded sector (primary health and community).

‘Gaslit Women’

There were still about 25 outstanding claims that were now at risk, Labor relations and safety spokeswoman Camilla Belich said.

“I am shocked that Nicola Willis, who has benefited from the courage and determination of the women who came before her, is making a decision that will leave women worse off.

“Your statement is misleading women. The recent additional funding was to build capacity for pay equity, not to close it. Your argument that the task force has been so successful that its work is no longer needed is a farce” .

Pay equity for disability care and support workers

Care and support workers’ pay equity claim has been unresolved for two years.

“Today’s announcement does not mean the government can stop providing pay equity money for care and support workers,” said Disability Support Network chief executive Peter Reynolds.

“Regardless of how the pay equity claim is ultimately resolved, the government will have to pay the money or watch support services for disabled people across the country collapse. If the government refuses to fund pay equity, they will be lost “jobs will be lost, services will be closed and disabled people and their families will lose access to support.”

He feared that support for people with disabilities would be underfunded in the next budget.

PSA union national secretary Kerry Davies said the government needed to resolve the claim urgently.

“The taskforce employs pay equity experts and has developed important frameworks to support the resolution of pay equity claims,” Davies said.

“Today’s news is a step backwards.”

She said it was a long road before women in New Zealand received the pay they deserved.

“We hope that the Finance Minister (Nicola Willis) stands by her words today and that the government does not wash its hands of its responsibilities to New Zealand women, but instead works with us to resolve pay equity claims.”