'Feeling cheated' - law changes in wake of aged care workers' deal won't close gender pay gap, say unions

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1 NEWS

A $2 billion equal pay deal for aged care workers and support staff isn't looking quite so equal for future claims.

Under proposed law changes women taking future equal pay claims would face a number of new obstacles.
Source: 1 NEWS

Unions say the Government's proposed changes to employment and pay laws, in the wake of the aged care workers' deal on Tuesday, will make it a lot harder for those wanting to challenge future gender pay inequality.

"All the feedback we're getting on social media from women is not just feeling cheated, feeling robbed," said Paul Goulter, NZEI National Secretary.

"They have actually surrounded the entitlements with barbed wire for any other women."

Rest home care worker Kristine Bartlett argued her wages were unfair and unlawful when compared with similar work in other fields dominated by men.

The Employment Court and Supreme Court agreed, and so the Government negotiated a big pay rise for caregivers.

But under the proposed law changes, women taking future equal pay claims would face a number of new obstacles before any chance of success like that of Ms Bartlett and her supporters.

"The bill does nothing to close the gender pay gap, in fact arguably it makes it worse," Mr Goulter said. 

We've waited 103 years in our union to see our members receive equal pay"
Public Service Association National Secretary Erin Polaczuk

Public Service Association National Secretary Erin Polaczuk says the Government is "rewriting what the courts delivered for us and in effect stopping future women from achieving equal pay settlements". 

Workplace Relations Minister Michael Woodhouse said in a statement he's confident the bill will be in "better shape" after a consultation process.

Business New Zealand agrees changes may be needed.

"Perhaps the draft as it is may be a little clunky for people. We want it to be simple for everybody," said Paul Mackay of Business NZ. 

Ms Polaczuk said: "We want to see equal pay settlements. We don't want to go backwards again. We've waited 103 years in our union to see our members receive equal pay." 

And if there aren't changes, the PSA says it'll go back to court. 

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