New pay rates take effect on July 1 for 55,000 workers in Government-funded aged care, home support and disability sectors because of an historic pay equity settlement.

However, community mental health support workers aren’t included – spurring today’s claim from the Public Service Association (PSA) and E tu unions.

E tu member and claimant Vicki Harmon said mental health support workers were in “turmoil”.

E tu assistant national secretary John Ryall said the unions were seeking urgency from the ERA in hearing the claim because the July 1 increases for other support workers will “cause a crisis” in the sector.

The settlement for aged care, home support and disability sector workers came after the Service Workers’ Union (now E tu) took a court case on behalf of rest home worker Kristine Bartlett.

It will lift her own pay from about $15.75 an hour to $23.50. By the end of five years, that will have increased to $27 an hour, a total increase of 71 per cent.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said the parties to that settlement agree that it will not be used as a precedent for other occupational groups.

“The question of the scope of the settlement was a big part of the negotiations. The reality is the line had to be drawn somewhere and there is always an element of compromise in any negotiations of this scale. Settlement parties – including unions – agreed to the scope of the settlement.”

Coleman said in November last year the Government announced pay equity principles, and the Equal Pay Amendment Bill to be progressed this year will establish a process for groups to resolve pay equity claims through bargaining rather than the courts.

“So if there are other claims, and there’s a number of groups talking about it at the moment, then they will be dealt with according to the principles of the pay equity legislation rather than by direct negotiation in this case.”

Labour leader Andrew Little said such claims highlighted the low wages paid to many workers in New Zealand.

“The pay equity legislation will help some, and the settlement achieved for the aged care workers will help some, but, actually, there is a wider problem. We have a ways to go in a whole heap of sectors.”

This article was originally published by fellow NZME publication the New Zealand Herald and can be read here

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