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Old law cannot deliver pay equity today

Old law cannot deliver pay equity today

The Coalition for Equal Value Equal Pay says the proposed equal pay amendments (part of the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill) will remove an opportunity to take a pay equity claim under the Equal Pay Act 1972.

In 32 years, no one has ever succeeded with such a claim.

Labour Minister Margaret Wilson says the Equal Pay Act 1972 was not designed to advance modern pay equity claims.

This Government has introduced the amendments to equal pay legislation so that equal pay claims are enforceable under the law. This is a different issue from pay equity.

It has also set up a Pay and Employment Equity Taskforce to examine pay equity issues.

“It is time for a new approach,” Margaret Wilson says.

The EPA was passed in 1972 and drafted to work along the national awards system. It aimed to ensure that male and female rates of pay were consistent within individual awards but not across awards.

Today, discussions by employers, employees, unions and others about pay equity focus on the need to compare and value the work of men and women across different jobs, professions and employers.

“Realistically, we cannot continue to discuss modern pay equity claims under an awards system that no longer exists,” Margaret Wilson said.

Margaret Wilson said the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill brings equal pay under the good faith employment relations framework. It will also mean New Zealand better meets its international obligations relating to equal pay, because the law will now be workable.

The Employment Equity Act 1990, now repealed, was passed to recognise New Zealand did not have a legislative basis for pay equity claims. It relied on the national awards system. This Government has established a Pay and Employment Equity Taskforce to examine the factors underlying the pay equity gap in the public sector. The Taskforce will be reporting back to the Government in March 2004 with an action plan to progress pay and employment equity for the core public service and education and health sectors.

“I want equal pay claims under the Employment Relations Act to work at a practical level. I also know that underlying factors driving the pay and employment equity gap in New Zealand need to be addressed through a careful and systemic examination of all the issues. This Government is working to achieve both,” Margaret Wilson said.

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