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Women's Affairs Minister disrespectful, Greens say

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Catherine Delahunty
Catherine Delahunty

By Stephanie McKay of NZPA

Wellington, June 30 NZPA - Women's Affairs Minister Pansy Wong has done nothing to close the gender pay gap and her comments following a pay disparity protest were flippant and disrespectful, the Green Party says.

Ms Wong today told Parliament that, under the National government, the pay gap between men and women had decreased from 12 percent to 11 percent.

"After 18 months the pay gap has closed by 1 percent (percentage point), we're obviously doing something right," she said.

"I've got more good news ... the 2010 OECD gender brief puts New Zealand's gender wage gap at the second lowest among OECD countries comparing average earnings for fulltime workers."

Her comments followed a protest outside Parliament today by members and supporters of the Pay Equity Coalition.

About 40 people assembled with placards, banners and five large, fake rocks -- a reference to Ms Wong's vow last year "to leave no stone unturned in trying to close the pay gap".

On each rock was a suggestion to remedy the gender pay disparity.

Green Party women's affairs spokeswoman Catherine Delahunty said the minister's statements were "frankly outrageous" and the gender pay gap had increased rather than decreased.

"The latest Quarterly Employment Survey shows that the gap in average hourly earnings is 12.35 percent. When the Government took office in November 2008 it was 12.19 percent," she said.

"This Government has done nothing to close the average pay gap between men and women ... it hasn't introduced a single new policy or initiative to advance pay equity."

Ms Delahunty said the Government did not care that women earned less than men.

"The minister's attitude to the gender pay gap is disrespectful to the thousands of women who are underpaid and struggling to make ends meet," she said.

At the protest, coalition spokeswoman Angela McLeod said the group -- which included members of the Public Service Association, New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and the Services and Food Workers Union -- were calling for a number of changes including a review of existing legislation and an increase in the minimum wage.

The protest also marked the anniversary of the Labour Department's closure of its Pay and Employment Equity Unit.

"We actually think there needs to be action now. We have all those pay and employment equity investigations and there's some that haven't even been honoured," Ms McLeod said.

"We want legislation, the Equal Pay Act of 1972 is ineffective, and it was made ineffective with the Employment Contracts Act."

Aged care worker Francess Whaanga said she was "disappointed" by her hourly rate.

"I've been in this industry of 20 years and I'm just on $14, things have just started to happen in the last couple of years, since I've been in the union," she said.

"I believe we deserve more and should be acknowledged for the hard work we put in, and I put in extra for the elderly, it's the passion I have."

Mrs Whaanga, an NZNO delegate, said she earned $8 an hour when she first began working as a carer.

"I haven't moved much. The only reason I've moved is because I've joined the union and I've been quite a big participant in it and I love it," she said.

"I just find it rewarding for me, but not the money."

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