'New era' ushered in with equal pay deal for care workers
It's taken a woman who used to skip meals so she could feed her kids nearly three decades to see a decent pay rise - but it's finally happened.
A landmark moment on Tuesday has placed 55,000 workers in the aged residential, disability and home support sectors at the receiving end of a solid pay rise after unions and the Government settled on an equal pay deal.
For Mavis Pearce, it was an historic day for all New Zealand women.
Pearce, who began rest home work in 1989 at $9 an hour only recently landed herself at $16 an hour.
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In 1999 the Taranaki woman saw a $2 pay rise and then in 2014 another $3 an hour was added to her pay, with the final $2 top-off last year.
It was such a low income that Pearce would often miss meals just to feed her three children.
"Nine times out of 10, you'd feed the kids and went without yourself," she said.
"But I loved the work. None of us are in it for the money, because there isn't any money in it, but because of the clients."
Women throughout the country cheered as the Government announced that a $2 billion pay equity settlement had been decided.
From July 1, the predominantly female workforce will see a pay rise between 15 per cent and 50 per cent, or $19 and $23.50, dependent on qualifications and experience.
And by 2021, entry level pay rate will sit at $21.50 an hour with a top rate of $27 an hour.
"To me, it marks a new era," Pearce said.
"We're finally being recognised for the work we do."
The settlement comes after 20 months of negotiations sparked by Kristine Bartlett.
Bartlett, an aged care worker from Lower Hutt, flexed her muscles in court when she argued workers in the rest home industry were underpaid because they were mostly women and if workers were predominantly men, the pay would be higher.
The E Tu member's case gained national attention as it worked its way up to the Supreme Court, who unanimously accepted her argument, and swayed Government to introduce legislation late last year that allowed employees to file pay equity claims directly with their employer, rather than approaching the courts.
Bartlett's push for equal pay in her sector has fortuitously triggered negotiations within varying industries.
Sam Jones, E Tu lead organiser for Taranaki, expects to see a rippling effect.
"All these cases that were waiting for this... kitchen workers, flight attendants... it will absolutely flow on."