Treat Her Right campaign kicks off: Equal Pay? It's about time!

Filming the final crowd scene of the "She Works Hard For The Money"  Equal Pay remake.

Filming the final crowd scene of the "She Works Hard For The Money" Equal Pay remake.

She works hard for the money. So hard for it, honey. She works hard for the money so you better treat her right.

Shakespeare? Chaucer, perhaps? Jane Austin? Sylvia Plath? No, my friends. These immortal lines were written by the late American disco diva, Donna Summer.

The song got to Number 23 on the NZ pop charts in 1983. It was inspired by a chance encounter in the toilets of Chasen's bistro in LA, where Summer met an exhausted rest room attendant named Onetta Johnson.

"Pay the sisters the same as the misters": A still from the Treat Her Right film shoot

"Pay the sisters the same as the misters": A still from the Treat Her Right film shoot

To make ends meet, Johnson worked two jobs, one of which involved cleaning the dunnies of the rich and famous. This particular day, she was so knackered, she'd fallen asleep in her bathroom chair.

READ MORE:
* Supreme Court dismisses equal pay appeal bid
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* Kristine Bartlett demanded equal pay for work of equal value

An anthem against economic injustice, the song's original video begins with a woman dragging herself along to a minimum wage job in a New York diner, and ends with a parade of female professionals - machinists, cleaners, policewomen, construction workers, nurses - dancing in the street, while Donna wails on a fire escape above.

Standing up to be counted. Equal Pay dancers during the Auckland Treat Her Right film shoot.

Standing up to be counted. Equal Pay dancers during the Auckland Treat Her Right film shoot.

It may surprise you to know that a new clip was shot for this song in Auckland recently, in a film shoot convened by Eagle Vs Shark actor Loren Taylor.

Miriama McDowell and Rachel Forman from Shortland Street shook their famous hips. Jennifer Ward-Lealand got down alongside Funny Girls comedians Laura Daniel and Jackie Van Beek.

Rising Labour Party star Jacinda Ardern was witnessed busting some dope moves beside newly minted Greens candidate, Chloe Swarbrick.

And choreographers led around 200 rhythmically challenged female volunteers through formation dance steps as the cameras rolled.

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Why, exactly? Because women are still being ripped off left, right and centre in the workplace.

The Equal Pay Act was legislated in 1972 but has never been enforced. New Zealand women are paid, on average, 13% less than their male counterparts for work of the same value. And based on the current rate of change, it's going to take 45 years before women will be paid equally to men.

Or perhaps not. A protracted pay parity case won by aged care worker Kristene Bartlett has forced the government to belatedly set up a working group to tackle institutionalised underpayment and, hopefully, retrofit some teeth to an Equal Pay Act that has languished for 44 years.

It's about time. The government has announced its intention to make it easier for women to file equity claims with their employer, rather than having to go through the courts.

This new public participation video is part of a Council of Trade Unions campaign to make sure this promise is kept. You can watch it at www.treatherright.co.nz and learn more about the campaign.

I encourage every reader to do what they can to support gender pay equality. Do it for your mother, your sister, your daughter, yourself. Do it for Donna Summer.

After all, she works hard for the money, so you better treat her right.

 - Stuff

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