Alliance Party co leader Kevin Campbell calls pay rates for aged and disability support workers in New Zealand a national disgrace.
Mr Campbell says Human Rights Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor is quite right to describe pay rates as “modern – day slavery”. Sadly a high percentage of care workers are foreign workers coming to New Zealand to try to get a new start in a new country. The Alliance is not proud of the working conditions these workers are experiencing in caring for our elderly.
The Alliance congratulates Dr McGregor for spending a week as an uncover care worker to experience the conditions first hand, and for drawing attention to the issue.
The disability and aged care sectors are almost totally government funded. The underpayment of workers stems from undervaluing of both the elderly and people with disabilities. It has always been this way because quite simply the people of New Zealand tolerate it. We, as taxpayers, have not cared enough to put pressure on the government to improve wages and conditions for workers.
Protestations from successive governments that they cannot control what service providers pay their staff are simply rubbish. It took a matter of weeks to legislate so that Warner Bros could get the employment conditions they demanded for workers on The Hobbit because everyone wanted the film made in New Zealand.
Mr Campbell believes there are two easy options. The government could legislate to enforce conditions on the aged care and disability sector including staff wage rates, staff/ service user ratios and minimum qualifications.
And it could raise the minimum wage so that services have to pay their staff more. The Alliance believes a minimum wage of $17 is necessary for workers to have a passable standard of living. This would benefit not only support workers but all workers on the minimum wage.
Dr McGregor says “to know is to get angry”. Now we know, and it is time to get angry. We need to get behind the commissioner and demand that the government take action immediately.