Last night I was running between meetings; first the Graduate Womens’ meeting on the graduate gender pay gap and then the Save Radio NZ meeting organised by Grant Robertson and Sue Kedgley.
The graduate women’s meeting was pretty great -and made me think.
To be honest I’ve never fully engaged with the Pay Equity campaign because it’s always seemed to me to be a middle class concern. I know this makes no sense, but my memory of the meetings was they were peopled by a significant number of older women of privelege who were also worried about the number of women on corporate boards. This doesn’t inspire me to action.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs told us that as an innovative policy department they were focussed on finding new ways to look at pay equity. They shared their latest research on the graduate gender pay gap. This report shows that there is a 6% gap after one year of graduating and 17% after 5 years. Useful information, sure, but considering the Ministry and others having been researching the problem for well about 100 years, and considering other groups like NACEW, EEO Trust, and the universities are all arguably better placed to do this research, it’s a bit weak.
Maybe it’s time for action.
Also for those of you who don’t know this ‘work stream’ was established by women’s affairs as an attempt to placate us when the government shut down the Pay Equity Unit in the Department of Labour and stopped the public service review of pay and employment equity.
I guess this government doesn’t think it’s time for action.
Unfortunately the next speaker had been asked to talk about negotiation skills in response to the idea that actually it’s our fault that we’re being paid less than men. She took this at face value and passed on her tips for negotiating a better pay deal for yourself. Those of us in the back row were muttering about victim blaming , lack of structural analysis, and poor rich white women. This highlighted for me the potential problems of talking about pay equity and why I’d hadn’t really connected to the campaign before.
The next two speakers though, Peter Cullen and Rebecca Matthews changed all that. Peter Cullen is an employment lawyer and he outlined the problems with the curent legislation and said that while we needed to use the legal channels we have we absolutely need legislative change to clarify and improve our laws. I was interested to hear though that the Human Rights Commission can initiate class actions, and damn it we should be pushing them to do it.
The PSA is initiating a class action to go to the Human Rights Tribunal, but have had to fund the preparation of this case themselves, and considering the low levels of unionisation in this country that’s a big ask.
Rebecca did a brilliant job speaking on behalf of the Pay Equity Challenge.
She talked about how in the banking industry, even when they have collective agreements, it turns out that the guys are often being paid above the top rate, while the women carry on doing their jobs obliviously.
She highlighted the difficulty of even assessing if we have equal pay let alone pay equity at the moment and called for legislation that would require employers to report gender pay ratios and for penalties in the event of there being a gap.
Rebecca thankfully also highlighted the need to raise the minimum wage – seeing as so many women are earning it.
We need a campaign to support unions. Equal Pay and Pay Equity need strong collective action, which in turn requires a density of membership.
We need to improve the levels of collective bargaining in this country. We also need to improve union’s ability to bargain at an industry level.
Now this is an agenda that resonates with me.
Then feeling all inspired I ran down the road to the next meeting:
It was a full house and a culturally and age diverse audience. It was fantastic to hear the stories of what RNZ means to us all.
I’m looking forward to the forthcoming protests.