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Summerset to grapple with ripple effect

NZN 27/04/2017 Rebecca Howard

Summerset Group's board came under pressure regarding its plans for wage-earners who won't benefit from a recent government-funded lift in caregiver wages at its annual meeting in Wellington, but said it plans to be proactive.

Earlier this month the government announced it would implement a historic pay equity pay deal for aged and residential care workers worth $2.05 billion of extra pay over four years for some 55,000 people - close to 2 per cent of the total New Zealand workforce.

Summerset chief executive Julian Cook said "we are very pleased that a settlement has been reached and that wages for caregivers and the funding to match this will come into place shortly".

However, several shareholders questioned what the company was going to do about the workers who won't benefit from the deal as well as the potential flow-on effect with other workers, such as nursing staff given the reduced pay gap.

Directors Grainne Troute and Andrew Wong - both elected Thursday - were asked what they were going to do to ensure that the benefits of the equal pay settlement extended to other staff.

Ms Troute underscored it as a challenge the board "will be grappling with" and the need to be able to attract the best quality of staff applies to all areas of the business.

Mr Wong said that people will be looking at what they earn and what it means for the jobs they do and "we will have to respond to that if we want to get the best people to do the jobs we are asking them to do".

Chairman Rob Campbell emphasised the company will be proactive and said "we don't see the future of this business as being dependent on low wages or exploitation. We want to have a business that is based on paying people fairly and equitably and we will do that," he said.

Across town in a pre-Budget speech the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, Finance Minister Steven Joyce downplayed the potential ripple effect of the government's move into other sectors.

"The barrier is rightly set high because a flow-on to other sectors would mean going back to the old relativities that these workers have just won the right to get away from."

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