Rest-home worker campaigns for equal pay

Lower Hutt rest home worker Kristine Bartlett is campaigning for equal pay and is in Invercargill to talk about it.

Lower Hutt rest home worker Kristine Bartlett is campaigning for equal pay and is in Invercargill to talk about it.

Kristine Bartlett loves her job.

She has worked in the aged-care industry for the last 23 years and nearly three years ago took legal action against her employer, TerraNova Homes and Care, for equal pay.

The Lower Hutt rest-home caregiver argued that her $14.46 hourly rate was less than would be paid to men for the same skills, which was a breach of the 1972 Equal Pay Act.

The Employment Court ruled against TerraNova but the company appealed the decision to the Supreme Court.

The matter has since been returned to the Employment Court after the Supreme Court denied TerraNova's appeal.

Bartlett said the past few years had gone extremely quickly.

"I love our residents and I love where I'm working and making people happy, they are lovely people who need love and support. "We [care workers] feel so deeply about our job but we can't live on love and our employers disrespect our compassion," Bartlett said.

She gave a talk last night at the Workingmen's Club about her experience with the equal pay case and the work she has put into it.

"The whole experience has been pretty quick, about two and a half years, and now it's just a matter of playing the waiting game," Bartlett said.

Bartlett has been a delegate with the Service and Food Workers Union for 17 years and said this case was her biggest challenge yet.

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"I used to be very shy and now it gets me so angry I can't help but speak out. I was scared at first and couldn't speak but now I just tell the truth and hope people will understand."

Bartlett travels throughout New Zealand, and has visited resthomes from Auckland to Invercargill, with exception of her own district, Wellington.

The problem of insufficient pay in care work was widespread throughout the country, she said.

"People are suffering, they can't pay their bills or pay for buses to work. They come to work hungry and they can't afford to go to the doctors."

There was no set goal for a pay increase, but Bartlett hoped it would be fair.

"I'm convinced we're going to win this. As long as it takes, we're not going to spend all this money and then lose."

A date has not been set for the case to return to the Employment Court, but it would be later in the year, she said.

 - The Southland Times


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