Te Whatu Ora must stop unjustly delaying pay equity for 65,000 care and support workers

E tū, The Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi (PSA), and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) are calling on Te Whatu Ora to stop interfering in the Care and Support Workers’ pay equity claim that has left 65,000 underpaid health workers waiting.

“For more than a year we have undergone a rigorous pay equity process. We have systematically proven and measured the undervaluation of care and support workers based on their gender,” says PSA Assistant Secretary Melissa Woolley.

The three unions filed the claim on 1 July 2022 with 15 employers that are representative of the wider care and support sector, employing around 30 percent of the workforce.

“We are disappointed that as we near the end of the process, Te Whatu Ora has interfered and overstepped its role by trying to initiate a review of work on the claim that has already been completed and received the necessary sign off,” says E tū Assistant National Secretary Rachel Mackintosh.

Pay equity claims follow a prescribed process overseen by the Public Service Commission. Each milestone during the process is awarded appropriate signoff before advancing to the next stage and Rachel says the proposed review seeks to re-open elements of the work that have already been signed off.

“We are on the edge of a decision that would make sure care and support workers are paid fairly for what they do and that would strengthen our community-based health services. This unwarranted and damaging proposed review has significantly delayed reaching a settlement,” says caregiver and NZNO delegate Trish McKillop.

Unions have issued a legal challenge to the review.

An open letter has been launched calling on funders to provide sufficient resources to settle the claim as soon as possible and stop the interference. The letter is supported by community organisations including Grey Power, the National Council of Women, and the Council of Trade Unions.

The situation is now urgent as the Care and Support Workers Pay Equity Settlement Act is due to expire on December 31 st with no assurance of how its protections will be maintained.

“We are committed to working with the next government to ensure care and support workers receive a pay equity offer by the end of the year,” Melissa Woolley says.

Further information:

  • The Care and Support Workers’ pay equity claim covers home support workers, aged care workers, disability support workers, and mental health and addictions workers.
  • Aotearoa celebrated proudly in 2017 when unions won an historic pay increase for care and support workers following landmark legal wins championed by aged care worker Kristine Bartlett. But since then, their wages have regressed back to minimum wage while the cost of living has skyrocketed.