On Wednesday 30 June the Pay Equity Challenge Coalition held a rally outside Parliament to mark the anniversary of the National Government’s closure of the Pay and Employment Equity Unit. The rally sought to highlight New Zealand’s gender pay gap and to analyse the actions of the Minister of Women’s Affairs who promised last June to “leave no stone unturned in trying to close the gender pay gap”
At Question Time that day Catherine Delahunty and I asked questions of the Minister Pansy Wong to explore what she had been doing to close the gender pay gap. Her answers show both a lack of understanding and a lack of commitment to dealing with this problem. She was just plain wrong about the gap closing to 11% as Catherine went on to show the House the next day. And as for her answer on flexible working – well I leave that up to you to judge. The legislation that National voted against was the Employment Relations (Flexible Working Arrangements) Amendment Act 2007. As the Dept of Labour outlines the flexibility envisaged is broad ranging and includes – flexi hours, flexi weeks, flexi years, flexi location, flexi worksite, flexi career.
The issues of unequal pay – whether it be unequal pay for the same work, unequal pay for work of equal value or lack of opportunity to progress to higher paid work – have serious consequences over a lifetime. The immediate financial consequences for families is that they have less money to try and make ends meet. Many families are struggling at the moment with low or no pay increases and ever increasing costs; unequal pay exacerbates the problem.
There is not a single solution to the issue of pay equity but not acting is indefensible. Minister Pansy Wong’s commitment to “leave no stone unturned to close the pay gap” has been shown to be worthless.