Equal pay set to be tested

20:23, Dec 09 2012

Pay equality for women is set to be tested in what legal experts describe as a landmark case that could pave the way for many more claims.

The Service and Food Workers Union has launched the legal challenge, which it believes is long overdue and could be bigger than the $150 million settlement agreed by the Government last year for sleepover shifts by careworkers looking after intellectually disabled people.

Wellington union member Kristine Bartlett, who works at rest home provider Terranova Homes & Care, agreed to front the claim and took the company to the Employment Relations Authority, alleging a breach of the 40-year-old Equal Pay Act and the Employment Relations Act.

Ms Bartlett says her hourly wage of $14.46 is less than what would be paid to male employees with the same, or substantially similar, skills.

Terranova employs six male caregivers out of 117 across the country. It argues that none of the female employees is paid less than the men under the assessment criteria.

Authority member Paul Stapp referred the matter to the Employment Court, as important questions of law were likely to arise, and it was of "important public interest". A date has yet to be set.


Pay Equity Challenge Coalition spokeswoman Angela McLean said she hoped the case affected other female-dominated positions such as clerical work and school support.

' "The pay equity genie is out of the bag."

BATTLE OF THE SEXES Average median wage: Men $23, Women $21.58

Male-dominated professions and average hourly wage

Chief executives and general managers (male $45.03/female $32.16)

Farmers, farm managers and specialist managers (male $32.39/female $31.78)

Technicians and trades (male $24.54/female $23.10)

Machinery operators and drivers (male $21.15/female $17.37)

Construction, factory, farm and other labourers (male $19.27/female $17.12)

Female-dominated professions and average hourly wage

Education professionals (male $31.32/female $28.03)

Health professionals (male $45.38/female $30.78)

Health and welfare support, carers and aides (male $19.67/female $17.70)

Office managers, PAs and clerks (male $25.70/female $23.27)

Cleaners and food preparation labourers (male $17.23/female $15.61)

Fairfax Media