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Unions celebrate Suffrage Day win for women

The Council of Trade Unions hosted a Suffrage Day petition re-enactment today on the steps of parliament. At the historical celebration, Acting Minister for Women Eugenie Sage and the Minister for Workplace Relations Iain Lees-Galloway jointly announced that new equal pay legislation is being introduced to parliament.

Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff said the announcement was welcome and fitting, 125 years to the day that Kate Sheppard and the Suffragists won the vote.

"The very next thing on Kate Sheppard’s list was equal pay," he said. "She would hardly have believed that it would take a further 125 years for a clear equal pay process to be won, and it shows the power of collective action and campaigning is just as relevant today."

"This legislation introduced by the coalition Government today puts the tripartite agreed equal pay principles into law, without the unfair hurdles for finding appropriate job comparators the last Government tried to introduce."

Erin Kennedy, registered nurse and New Zealand Nurses Organisation delegate helped walk a replica of the 1893 petition, which her great grandmother signed, down from the National Library where the original is housed to deliver to all MPs. "I think my great grandmother would have been proud of her descendants continuing the tradition of campaigning for women’s rights," she said. My nursing colleagues are keeping that tradition alive with our equal pay claim in District Health Boards, and today’s announcement opens the door to equal pay for so many other women working in healthcare."

Nadia Abu-Shanab, an early childhood education teacher and NZEI Te Riu Roa member spoke of her hopes for colleagues and friends to win equal pay. Their claim for equal pay is in the campaign stage.

"Walking the 270 metres down to parliament, the length of the original petition, it made me think about the absolute persistence needed to win and hold on to our rights," Nadia said.

"I do see a future where all women in New Zealand are paid fairly and equally. But in order to get there, we are going to have to keep joining together in unions, and collectively campaigning - that is the history of women winning advancement in New Zealand. The weight of history is on our side."

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