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Unions back care worker pay settlement

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 18/04/2017

An elderly patient is fed by a nurse. © Getty Image An elderly patient is fed by a nurse. Unions have applauded the government's equal pay settlement for 55,000 aged-care workers, which will cost $2 billion over the next five years.

The offer stems from a case that caregiver and E tu member Kristine Bartlett lodged in 2011, and she was delighted with the announcement.

"It will give us dignity and pride and make our lives worthwhile, knowing we're being paid what we are actually worth," she said.

"After years of struggling on low wages, hopefully we're going to have a bit left over to actually enjoy life."

Under the settlement, existing staff will be paid between $19 and $23.50 an hour from July 1.

Unions say these workers earn an average of just over $16 an hour, with many on the minimum wage of $15.75.

By July 2021, the entry-level rate will be $21.50 an hour, with a top rate of $27.

E tu assistant national secretary John Ryall said the settlement, once ratified, would mean a "once in a lifetime pay rise which will end poverty wages" for a mainly female workforce.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation, the Public Service Association and the Council of Trade Unions have also backed the settlement.

NZNO industrial services manager Cee Payne said it would mean pay rates that reflected the skills and importance of work undertaken every day.

The workers provide government-funded aged residential care, home support and disability services for around 110,000 people.

In the Bartlett case, the Court of Appeal upheld a 2013 Employment Court ruling that in female-dominated occupations, the Equal Pay Act 1972 required equal pay for work of equal value.

The ruling was different to the way the law had been interpreted in the past and the government has been negotiating to settle the case.

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