Pay equity for health care workers

A major win for Kristine Bartlett, her union and 55,000 health care workers after the Government has agreed to a major boost in pay rates.

$2 billion pay equity settlement for 55,000 health care workers

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has today announced that some of the health sector’s lowest paid workers will share in a $2 billion pay equity settlement over five years.

The wage boost follows the TerraNova pay equity claim brought by E tū (previously the Service and Food Workers Union) on behalf of care worker Kristine Bartlett.

“This settlement recognises the work carried out by the 55,000 workers in our aged and disability residential care, and home and community support services across the country,” says Dr Coleman.

“From July 1 this dedicated and predominantly female workforce who are mostly on or around minimum wage will receive a pay rise between around 15 and 50 per cent depending on their qualifications and or experience.

“For the 20,000 workers currently on the minimum wage of $15.75 per hour, it means on July 1 they will move to at least $19 per hour, a 21 per cent pay rise. For a full-time worker, this means they will be taking home around an extra $100 a week, which is over $5,000 a year.”

For these 55,000 workers this funding boost will see wages increase to between $19 to $27 per hour over five years. Existing workers will be transitioned to positions on the new pay scale which reflect their skills, and their experience. For new workers employed after July 1 wages will be based on an individual’s level of qualifications.

A care and support worker on the minimum wage with three years’ experience and no qualifications will receive a 27 per cent increase in their hourly wage rate moving from $15.75 to $20 per hour from July 1. That rate would progressively increase to $23 by July 2021 and would rise further if they attain a higher qualification.

The $2.048 billion settlement over five years will be funded through an increase of $1.856 billion to Vote Health and $192 million to ACC.  ACC levies are set for the coming years, but may possibly increase over the next decade to support this. However, that is not definite. There may also be an increase in costs for people in aged residential care facilities, whose assets keep them above the subsidy threshold. This will be determined through the annual Aged Residential Care contract negotiations.

“To ensure the pay rises happen in the agreed manner, I will be introducing legislation to Parliament shortly,” says Dr Coleman.

“I would like to thank E tū, Public Service Association, New Zealand Nurses Organisation, and the Council of Trade Unions for their constructive and positive approach throughout the negotiations. I would also like to acknowledge the New Zealand Aged Care Association, Home and Community Health Association, and the New Zealand Disability Support Network for the vital role they have played in reaching this agreement over the past 20 months.

“I would also like to recognise the employers who will implement this new wage structure and pass the rates onto their staff.

“Home and community support, disability and aged residential care workers are widely seen as amongst the most deserving of recognition as a pay equity case. It is an historic moment for the Government to address this undervaluing with Ms Bartlett and the unions.”

Some background from RNZ: Govt settles historic pay equity case

In 2013, Kristine Bartlett – a professional caregiver – successfully argued in the Employment Court her low hourly pay rate was a result of gender discrimination under the Equal Pay Act.

Health care workers, including age care and disabled  care workers, were grossly underpaid through the Government for doing demanding jobs largely done by female workers, so this is a big step up towards pay equity.

Not only will this pay health care workers what they deserve, it will also boost the incomes of a lot of low waged households and families.




  1. Kitty Catkin

     /  April 18, 2017

    I can’t see that this was ‘discriminatory’ . There are some men doing it, the workers surely knew what the wages were before they began doing it. The gender thing is a red herring to make the cause seem more worthwhile and harder to refute.

    Someone has to pay for this, an aspect that will probably not be emphasised. What’s the betting that a sinking lid policy will quietly come into being ? The costs of running these places are immense.


    • There’s only a small number of male workers, most are female with no alternative work in the industry that isn’t Government paid.

      It was ruled by several levels of Court to be discriminatory, that’s why the Government decided to negotiate a framework to pay the workers fairly.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  April 18, 2017

        I still can’t see it as discriminatory if the wages are the same for everyone. There are unskilled jobs done almost exclusively by men and are poorly paid-I can’t believe that anyone would choose to be a dustman as their career of choice. But they earn less than the rest home workers, doing a dirty, strenuous, monotonous job. I don’t hear anyone saying that this is discriminatory.

        • Gezza

           /  April 18, 2017

          Very good decision. These workers have been been very much underpaid for the value of the work they do.

  2. Kitty Catkin

     /  April 18, 2017

    I think that people who call this equal pay are missing the point-the pay for the work is equal, as it is for other work and has been since the early 70s.

    • Blazer

       /  April 18, 2017

      have you been cryogenically frozen time?

  3. A big win/win for collective bargaining, union-employer negotiation and government wage fixing. Hard fought (unnecessarily), hard won, decent, fair and just (by the sound of it) …

    We’re not so far from home after all …

    • Corky

       /  April 18, 2017

      Yeah, you are a long way from home. I can see problems with this down the track. Besides, all that’s happening is National is cutting the Left off at the knees. Unwillingly, in this case, it must be acknowledged.

      • By the look of Bill English, Jonathan Coleman and others like Nikki Kaye they were more than willing in the end.

        • The irony is here’s the government taking the credit for something it resisted at every possible turn … along with employers no doubt …

          The heroine in this is Kristine Bartlett, plus E Tu and the other employee organisations … They accomplished this DESPITE the government resistance …

          • John Schmidt

             /  April 18, 2017

            Its their job to resist if they didn’t we would all be millionaires with a inflation rate better than Venezuela. Its why it needed to be a court case with reasoned arguments so that a good decision can be made.

            • Blazer

               /  April 18, 2017

              pass the peanut butter John,you must have lead a blameless life…..ever tried anything besides plain …white…bread?

  4. Nelly Smickers

     /  April 18, 2017

    There was already talk this morning at Wayne’s mums *Retirement Village*, of fee increases in the order of around 15 percent this year. Obviously they see it as impacting on the private sector as well, if they are to retain their most valued staff members.

    It’s like Wayne has *always* said,
    “They should either raise the minimum wage….. or lower the price of lobster”