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Pay And Employment Equity: Govt Priorities 08/09

Hon Maryan Street

Cabinet Minister

3 April, 2008 Speech

Pay And Employment Equity: Government Priorities for 2008/09

Notes for speech delivered to the third Pay and Employment Equity Forum by Cabinet Minister Maryan Street on behalf of Labour Minister Trevor Mallard at the National Library Auditorium.

Welcome to the third Pay and Employment Equity Forum. I’m delighted to be here to open the forum in place of the Minister of Labour. In fact given my own involvement with pay equity matters over the last 30 years, I am delighted to be here!

I want to talk about where we are with the government’s plan of action and also look at our priorities for this year.

In May 2004, the government made a significant commitment to pay and employment equity in its launch of the Pay and Employment Equity Plan of Action - a systematic and comprehensive plan to address major employment issues for women: issues that can, directly or indirectly, affect both women and men.

I want to reaffirm the government’s commitment to that plan. We want to see that remuneration, job choice and job opportunities are not affected by a person’s gender. There are good reasons for that. Pay and employment equity is about fairness and human rights – but there are sound economic and social reasons for our commitment too.

Pay and employment equity is an important part of the government’s broader economic agenda. Research indicates that addressing gender inequities in the workplace can contribute to maximising our skill and knowledge pool. This can increase productivity, contribute to job satisfaction and to employee retention.

This has benefits for women individually and for New Zealand generally.

I see three major priorities for pay and employment equity this year.

The first priority is maintaining momentum and continuing to build capability in phase one – the Public Service, public health and public education sectors.

Pay and employment equity reviews are well-advanced in these sectors and we should be proud of progress made. The reviews are critical to identifying and removing the barriers to employment equity.

All 39 public service departments, the 21 district health boards and the public school sector will complete the pay and employment equity process this year. Reviews are underway in the tertiary education sector and kindergartens will also commence theirs this year.

We need to maintain that momentum to complete phase one and build a significant resource bank of knowledge and expertise for the longer term.

As reviews are completed in phase one organisations, the focus needs to shift to implementing response plans.

The bipartite approach that underpins pay and employment equity is proving to be a key factor in success and provides a model for social partnership in both policy and implementation.

The second priority this year is accelerating progress in pay investigations:

This is the second arm of the plan, the occupational and labour market part. It is about the re-valuing of women-dominated occupations that may be under-valued.

It involves conducting pay investigations, seeking remedial pay settlements, if warranted, and bargaining for appropriate rates. This part of the plan is not yet fully off the ground.

Special education support workers at the Ministry of Education will be the first occupational group to undertake a pay investigation. Child Youth and Family Services will also be conducting a pay investigation of social workers.

They will provide a model for future pay investigations. This has historic significance for pay equity. Both are joint employer/union initiatives and I congratulate all those involved.

More concerted progress in pay investigations and remedial pay settlements will mean ensuring that organisations know what the new process is and how to do it. This forum will contribute to that.

It will mean public sector organisations recognising that budget bids, accompanied by sound business cases, may need to go forward to cover pay and employment equity remedial pay settlements. That is part of the government’s plan of action.

The third priority is getting pay and employment equity underway in phase two organisations:

Since the last forum, government has decided to lead and encourage implementing the plan in phase two organisations: that is Crown entities and the local government sector. I congratulate those local government authorities and Crown research institutes that are already planning reviews, in partnership with unions.

This third priority includes the extension of pay and employment equity to workers involved in government-funded outsourced services in parts of the public health sector.

This will mean that many vulnerable workers involved in providing public health services will benefit from pay and employment equity also. Extending the policy to other parts of the outsourced workforce will be considered following a report to Cabinet in 2009.

In concluding, I want to note that government recognised in 2004 that pay and employment equity could take longer than five years. The plan of action seeks longer-term, sustainable change. It aims to mainstream pay and employment equity into existing management practices, resources, employment relations and whole-of-government activities.

This is happening and that longer-term commitment is fundamental to government policy.

I wish you all an enjoyable and productive forum.


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