Red Alert

Archive for the ‘Pay Equity’ Category

Equal Pay getting Further Away

Posted by on February 21st, 2013

Today the Business and Professional Women of NZ are commemorating Equal Pay Day to mark the number of days extra each year that women have to work to earn the same as men.
Sadly, Equal Pay Day this year is three days later than it was last year because the gender pay gap has grown again according to the StatisticsNZ Quarterly Employment Survey.
It shows the average hourly wage for men is $29.09, while women earn $25.25 per hour – a gap of almost 12%.
This comes on the back of the Minister for Women’s Affairs telling a select committee that the correlation between gender and low occupational status is “debatable.”
She was responding to a petition signed by 10,607 people calling on the Government to properly fund aged care services.
Her answer was that women would get better pay if they did jobs that men had traditionally done and this would fix the gender pay gap.
All very well, Minister Goodhew, but who is going to take care of you when need rest homecare if all of those hard-working women go off to be plumbers?

2 min 38 secs on the national party leader’s plan – have a look

Posted by on June 17th, 2011

International Women’s Day

Posted by on March 8th, 2011

Labour collegaues at the Pay and Employment Equity Pledge at Parliament


Today marks the centenary of International Women’s Day.  In the last century women have struggled for and achieved much in New Zealand.  We have often led the way in terms of women’s rights and this is worthy of celebration.

Originally tabled as an idea by Clara Zetkin a German socialist in 1910, International Women’s Day was first celebrated in 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland on 19 March.  More than one million women and men attended  rallies campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, be trained, to hold public office and end discrimination. However less than a week later on 25 March, the tragic ‘Triangle Fire’ in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women. This tragedy drew significant attention to working conditions and labour legislation in the United States that became a focus of subsequent International Women’s Day events.  The date was shifted to 8 March in 1913 and has since been celebrated on that date.

The focus on working conditions and labour laws is still very relevant for women in NZ and globally.   The ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) representing 176 million workers in 151 countries and territories today launched a report highlighting how women are still second class citizens at work.

The concentration of women in low paid and precarious work is still an issue in New Zealand.  There is clear evidence that the work of many women is undervalued.  The consequences of the persistent gender pay gap are huge and are both immediate and long term.  Women and their families have less income than they should to make ends meet and women over their lifetime are underpaid to a significant level which means they are able to save less for their retirement.

Low pay and pay inequity are serious matters and the consequences are particularly severe in tough economic times where families are struggling with ever rising prices, job losses and static or reducing incomes. The need for Government action is compelling.

On the centenary of International Women’s Day the National Government’s track record on the issue of pay equity is a sorry one.  That record— disestablishing the Pay Equity Unit, halting or failing to act on Pay and Employment Equity investigations, lifting the minimum wage by a cynically small amount, and crowing about closing the gender pay gap at a time of falling wages— is costing women all over New Zealand.

These actions are in a context of backtracking on basic rights at work. We have seen attacks on holidays, on meal and rest breaks and on rights to organise in unions.  We are seeing women sacked without recourse, women who too often have broken work histories and face periods of time with no rights in regard to unfair dismissal.

Today along with all my Labour women colleagues I signed the Pay and Employment Equity Pledge at Parliament urging the Government to reassess its strategy and develop a plan to close the pay gap in New Zealand.  Now that would be a good way to celebrate International Women’s Day!

Along with other speakers at the event at Parliament today I acknowledged the women of Christchurch. These women, in the face of terrible tragedy, are seeking to hold together their families and rebuild their lives. It is concerning to learn that the pressure facing the people of Christchurch is leading to an increase of domestic violence, a problem that still blights the lives of many women in New Zealand and globally.

Women should be grateful

Posted by on February 18th, 2011

We have a Prime Minister who thinks people using food banks do so because they make poor choices and an Acting Minister of Women’s Affairs who thinks women like school support staff working in jobs that are undervalued and who are struggling with the family budget in the face of ever rising prices should be “grateful that there is a National Government focused on lifting economic performance, and ensuring the well being of families and communities”

They are all heart!  They have no idea what it is really like for low and middle income New Zealanders!

In relation to Kate Wilkinson’s comments I say (a) there is no plan to lift economic performance, (b) the economy is going backwards – increasing unemployment and real wages falling, (c) her words will not give women confidence that this Government actually intends to do anything about the gender pay gap and (d) being grateful won’t help put food on the table or balance the budget. 

Yesterday was Red Bag Day, a day started by Business and Professional Women in 1988 to highlight the gender pay gap internationally.   The Minister cited the NZ Income Survey to say that the gender pay gap has closed but she then disputed the same statistics series when I outlined that it showed that real wages have declined, which of course makes a mockery of her crowing about the gender pay gap closing.

This Government have failed women in so many ways. In relation to pay equity they have scrapped the Pay Equity Unit, halted pay and employment equity investigations and failed to honour commitments to groups like Education Support Staff who work with special needs children. This is effectively ignoring the proven inequality this group faces.  In tough economic times with high unemployment and reducing pay,  low incomes due to discrimination have even greater impact on women and their families.

It is certainly inappropriate for the Acting Minister of Women’s Affairs to celebrate falling wages and to tell women they should be grateful.

In God’s own country

Posted by on January 31st, 2011

Last Sunday, the Sunday Star Times surprised and delighted by leading, no less, with a story about a survey showing people are increasingly concerned at the growing gap between rich and poor in this country, God’s Own which once prided itself on being egalitarian.

Yesterday it followed up with a major feature providing more detail, including a graph from the book The Spirit Level which shows NZ was 18th out of OECD 23 nations in terms of the gap between the richest and poorest 20%.

At Labour’s excellent Summer School over the weekend, Otago University academic David Craig reproduced GINI data which suggested in fact we are now the most unequal society. (He’s sending it and I will post up the link.)

Yesterday’s SST article quotes Brit Tory leader David Cameron as saying of The Spirit Level that it showed that “among the richest countries, it’s the more unequal ones that do worse according to almost every quality of life indicator…”

“We all know, in our hearts, that as long as there is deep poverty living systematically side by side with great riches, we all remain the poorer for it.”

Cameron is doing more than mouthing the words. Last year he appointed former Observer editor and long-time campaigner on equality and a ‘stakeholder’ society, Will Hutton, to head a pay equity review. (I am currently reading Hutton’s latest book Them and Us but more on that at another time.)

So you might think there is the chance for a reasoned debate here in NZ, if not Government pick-up?  Accompanying the SST feature yesterday was commentary from both CTU economist Bill Rosenberg (agreeing) and Roger Kerr, director of the Business Roundtable.

I can’t find an e-version of Kerr’s comments (although the BRT website carries this but he starts by saying: “Other things being equal, I prefer less inequality in incomes and wealth rather than more…”

Kerr then goes on the pan the book and story and dismisses the idea of better equity by saying:  “Equalising incomes, was, of course the socialist goal…”  No one is talking about equalizing incomes, that’s stupid and out of line even with a Tory Prime Minister. What we are talking about is a more equitable society, where the gap between rich and poor is reduced because otherwise everyone suffers.

It is simply obscene, for example, for the Westpac  chief executive in this country to be commanding a salary of $5m+ a year as we struggle out/through a recession for which banks have to take some responsibility. Banker JP Morgan had a rule that his executives should not earn more than 20 times that of his lowest paid employee. Westpac call centre people earn around $45,000 a year. That would take their CEO to around $1m.

That’s the sort of ceiling in place for state sector chief executives. Even then you have to ask why some SOE CEOs are earning twice + what the Prime Minster earns.

John Key is unlikely to follow the line taken by David Cameron. He is more likely to support Roger Kerr’s defence of the growing pay inequity gap and argues opposition is the politics of envy; that we should simply stop redistributing wealth (as if no redistribution has happened) and look at growing the economic pie.

No argument with that if the growth is sustainable but there’s no evidence provided that this is enhanced by paying someone 50 or 100 times what their workers earn.

Moreover, The Spirit Level graph of inequality appears to suggest that more equitable societies are more stable. Spain at tenth on the list of most equitable is the first truly troubled economy to be listed. The USA is second most unequal, just ahead of Portugal.

Neither our economic stability, nor our growing equality gap now perhaps the worst in the western world will be helped by tax cuts heavily favouring top earners. And another dose of state asset sales pushing up power prices won’t close the gaps either.

Summer films : Made in Dagenham

Posted by on December 27th, 2010

If you see no other film this summer, you need to see this one.

It’s the story of a group of  women working for the Ford Factory in Dagenham, UK who decided that not only were the 187 women machinists worth more because of their skills, but that all women should have equal pay.

It’s a classic. It has it all. Staunch women, men who aren’t so sure, one corrupt union official and another who has his principles intact.  It shows how American Ford went to great lengths to try to influence (or threaten) the UK government to ignore the women strikers. (Things haven’t changed that much here I reckon when we think about the Hobbit.)

 It led to the UK Labour government introducing the Equal Pay Act in 1970, and shows Labour MP, Barbara Castle’s involvement in that decision.

The UK Equal Pay Act led to other countries doing the same, including NZ. Our Equal Pay Act (or as Pansy Wong liked to call it, the Pay Equal Act, became law in 1972 (and yes, under a National government). We were following rather than leading, so Tories shouldnt get too carried away.

Pity about Pay Equity – but go see it.  Reminds us all that left to employers, self interest and greed comes first.

Thanks Dagenham sisters and mothers.

Pansy Wong “No stone unturned”

Posted by on July 4th, 2010

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.

$985/week tax cut

Posted by on May 20th, 2010

If you have earnings of $1m / annum you get – according to the government – a tax cut of $985 per week.

How can that be fair.

Spotless Profit up 40.8% Cleaners offered min wage plus 5 cents Not fair

Posted by on February 19th, 2010

Quick post coz doing electorate stuff but couldn’t resist sharing the Spotless results. These people are currently offering parliamentary cleaners a 25c wage increase that would take them to $12.80/hour despite employing cleaners (sometimes the same people) at $14.62/hour in hospitals and schools.

Their net profit after tax has increased by 40.8% to over $24 million.  Their earnings per share is up 25%.

Message to CEO Farnik – stop screwing our cleaners. Maybe you should pay $15 not $14.62/ hour. But $12.80/hour for parliamentary cleaners is just not enough.

Previous posts by Rick, Clare, and Darien.

The demo boom

Posted by on February 14th, 2010

IMG_1334Now Parliament is back in full-swing, demos against Government action (or inaction) are heating up again.

Last week, the Corrections Association and PSA protested outside parliament about privatisation of their jobs in prisons.

Representatives from the Northern Action Group and Wellsford Community Action were on Parliament’s forecourt to present a 7,000 signature petition opposing North Rodney being part of the Supercity.

Then, over the weekend, workers angry about the pitiful minimum wage increase, 15% GST and threats to the youth rates protested outside National MP’s offices.

This coming week, there’s plenty going on.

Tuesday sees the ACC Futures Coalition, now joined with the Bikers, back at Parliament protesting ACC cuts and privatisation.

Wednesday the cleaners from Government Buildings, including Parliament, will be banging their buckets because they’re sick of being offered nothing more than minimum wage.

Thursday is Red Bag Day with a march and rally at Parliament organised by Business and Professional Women to remind National that pay equity is still an issue.

And that’s just in parliament.  NZEI will continue its national bus tour to highlight the issues around national standards and we’ll be with them wherever we can.

Should be a noisy week.  And it’s only February.

Key is going to steal workers holidays

Posted by on December 20th, 2009

The SST has confirmed that John Key is to move ahead with his plan to shift low paid workers back from four to three weeks annual leave.

It is dressed up as an option but you would have to believe in Santa Claus to fall for that one.

At the same time the government is to move on the method of calculating holiday pay in order to reduce its value to seasonal and part time workers.

And the government has rejected to widespread calls for Easter Sunday to be a public holiday so that workers forced to work that day are paid something extra. It is plain weird that a Parliament which prays to a Christian god at the beginning of every sitting day refuses to recognise the most holy day of the year as a holiday.

Congratulations to school support staff for beating the wage freeze for low paid state workers

Posted by on December 16th, 2009

They have broken the government wage freeze for low income workers.  I was briefed in confidence a week ago and have had to sit on the good news. The Standard has covered it well today.

It just shows what a good campaign can do. Congratulations to the NZEI and especially to the thousands of support staff involved in tipping over the governments refusal to agree to any increase.

Remember the vast majority of these staff earn far less than Bill English got every year for a house in Wellington when he pretended he lived in Dipton for a decade.

Now it is important for Bill English to back Anne Tolley’s agreement with the cash.

Wong Declines to Comment on Top Priority

Posted by on December 15th, 2009

Why is Pansy Wong so media-shy on the issue of Pay Equity?

Last night, she refused to be interviewed on a “special report” on the gender pay gap on TV One and earlier in the year she also refused to be interviewed on a documentary on the subject broadcast on Radio NZ.

Some poor bod in her office realised how bad it would look for the Minister to decline to be interviewed on TV and a statement was belatedly issued, saying “pay equity is a top priority for the Government.”

Yeah, right! If it truly was a top priority, the Minister would take every opportunity to publicise what the Government is doing.

Trouble is, the only things they have done are close down the pay and employment equity unit, scrap pay equity reviews and refuse to hear submissions on the pay equity petition signed by almost 16,000 New Zealanders.  Perhaps they mean that reducing pay equity is their top priority?

Double dipton on public service ethics

Posted by on December 11th, 2009

Have been looking for a copy of the speech he gave.

Unusually not available on government website – wonder why.

Apparently didn’t mention housing rip off and was very unhappy when it was raised in the first question.

Link to the conference.

Fairness @ Work under National?

Posted by on November 4th, 2009

Thank goodness I don’t have a fragile ego (if I have one at all). In the past two weeks, the Nats have block-voted against hearing submissions on a petition I championed signed by nearly 16,000 other New Zealanders and they have also introduced a Bill reducing the right for all NZ workers to have a meal break – undoing legislation passed under Labour, based on a members’ bill I drafted.

But this posting is not about my ego, because that’s not the reason I’m am MP (can’t speak for others). I’m not taking it personally. After all “its not about me.”

It is about the thousands of school support staff, social workers and other ordinary fair-minded New Zealanders who the National Government took deliberate action against by block-voting to ensure they didn’t have to justify the axing of pay equity investigations for these hard-working New Zealanders.

And it is about workers who’s health and safety will be put at risk if National goes ahead with its plans to give employers the specific right to require workers to attend to their duties during their meal breaks and rest periods.

It is highly unusual for a select committee to refuse to hear submissions on a petition – particularly one of that size. However, the Nats were prepared to sacrifice the democratic principles of select committee procedures so that they weren’t put in the embarrassing position of having to defend the indefensible.

The Minister of Labour has already admitted that the Pay and Employment Equity Unit was closed down by her against the advice of her Department of Labour officials. Maybe the Nats blocked the hearing of submissions on the petition because they were worried about what the DOL would say in its submission?

Whatever the reason, David Bennett, Jackie Blue, Tau Henare, Allan Peachey and Michael Woodhouse should hang their heads in shame as the MPs who voted to block submissions being heard.

I bet none of them admit to having prevented the petition from being heard the next time the turn up at their local schools for a visit.

As for the right to a meal break at work, I don’t know about you but when I’m flying, I wanna know that the person in the sole-charge regional control tower is well-rested, alert, hydrated and has reasonable blood-sugar levels when they are giving important information to the pilot of my plane.

The Nats though, are passing legislation to ensure that they have to work through meal and rest breaks and in the process are subjecting all other NZ workers to the same possibility.

Not the brighter future they promised really, is it?

The standard on pay the bill english’s changing story on trust

Posted by on October 31st, 2009

They call it Bill’s pants are on fire.

15809 voices silenced

Posted by on October 30th, 2009

Today, the report of the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee on the petition of Sue Moroney and 15808 others was published.  The petition, tabled just a month ago, requested that the House of Representatives “call on the National Government to reverse its decision to scrap pay equity investigations for school support staff and social workers, implement the findings of previously completed pay and employment equity reviews, and develop a strategy to eliminate the gender pay gap in New Zealand.”

The majority of the committee (ie National members) say they “have no matters to bring to the attention of the House”.

How can the government possibly know this without bothering to hear from any of the petitioners?

Labour members on the Committee say in the report that the 15,808 petitioners should have been given the opportunity for the matters raised in the petition to be examined by the select committee in more detail. At the very least the select committee should have heard from Sue Moroney and the Government departments involved before deciding not to call for public submissions.

As a member of the Transport & Industrial Relations Committee, I was perturbed by the cavalier way in which National responded to this petition.  They don’t agree with it – we know that – but I would have thought that such a large petition would be considered for more than a nano-second by this government.

Cactus Kate on pay the bill english

Posted by on October 28th, 2009

I’m sure a few of my colleagues won’t think much of me linking to Cactus Kate.

This story has comments that are wrong – and her conclusion is pure Acting – but the nub of it that Bill English is on the ropes, a liability and a hypocrite is where we have common ground.

Pay the bill english on trusts and tax

Posted by on October 27th, 2009

Cactus Kate highlights the problem pay the bill has as MoF.

“Bill English has absolutely no right to talk about Trusts with any authority ever again. He set the Endeavour Trust up with the purpose of using it as a vehicle for not only home ownership but rorting the taxpayer of their subsidy on housing. This is beyond what English says he is now targetting – the age old fair practice of using companies or trust to lower the top personal tax rate from the high thirties to the low thirties. Still too bloody high.”

The last bit confirms that Kate hasn’t joined the enlightened side of politics and shows that pay the bill is being written off as a credible figure by the right as well as the left.

I do however want to warn against the idea that government can just hike up the tax rate in order to cover the budget. It doesn’t work.

When I was first an MP the Nats left us a legacy of a 66% top tax rate. Anyone with brains could work out that money invested with an accountant or tax lawyer resulted in a better return than investing it in productive activity.

And when GST was introduced and all rates dropped – including the top rate coming down to 33% – income tax revenue increased. Partly because a pile of exemptions and legal rorts were removed, partly because some people who had never had a relationship with the tax system became registered for GST and therefore paid income tax as well and partly because it was better to get on with earning money and cop the tax rather than spending valuable time energy and money trying to avoid it.

Pay the bill english yet another thing

Posted by on October 25th, 2009

So Bill has repaid the cash he got for pretending to being resident in Dipton when he was in fact living in Wellington.

But he only repaid to Ministerial Services the amount since the election. He hasn’t paid back for the previous nine years when he pretended to reside in Dipton when he was in fact living in Wellington.

And surely as an Opposition member the expectation that he live in his electorate was even stronger then.

He certainly doesn’t look happy in the House trying to preach fiscal restraint.