There is no excuse for the appalling wages paid to workers in the aged care and disability sectors. It is blatant discrimination against the – mainly – women who do the work and the people they work with; the elderly and people with disabilities.
At the very least care workers deserve to receive the living wage of $18.40 per hour. But in the long term they should receive a wage commensurate with more male dominated sectors requiring similar skills such as justice and mental health.
The Alliance Party is delighted that the Employment Court has now formally recognized this in their ruling last week on the case taken by aged care worker Kristine Bartlett. The Court found that the low pay rates in the aged care sector are based on gender, not the responsibilities and the skills required to do the job effectively.
The ball is now squarely in the government’s court. Aged care and disability support is directly funded by the government. The government needs to urgently review the rates they pay aged care and disability service providers.
If they believe the amount is sufficient to pay workers the living wage, it should be written into all contracts for services. If it deemed insufficient, funding should be immediately increased to make the wage increases possible. And wages need to keep pace with cost of living. Annual increases tagged for workers wages should be factored in to reflect cost of living increases.
The Alliance urges the government not to appeal the Employment Court ruling, and to move swiftly to discourage other bodies such as the Aged Care Association from appealing by reassuring them that funding will be made available to meet the increased costs to service providers if necessary.
An appeal could only be interpreted as a slap in the face for equal pay for women and a total disregard for the wellbeing of the elderly and disabled New Zealanders who rely on care workers to assist them to do the things that most of us take for granted.
A serious injustice has been clearly identified. The government must deal with it.