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PSA seeking to bridge large pay gap

August 24, 2008

PSA seeking to bridge large pay gap for community support workers

The Public Service Association is disappointed that NZCare has chosen to make public comments about collective agreement negotiations with the union ahead of mediated talks between the two parties in Wellington tomorrow.

NZ Care has issued a media release stating that the PSA is asking for an average pay increase of 23% for community support workers employed by NZ Care.

The fact is an independent job evaluation has shown that there is a pay gap of around 22% between NZ Care’s community support workers and health assistants working in public hospitals. This pay gap exists even through the evaluation shows that the work of the two jobs is similar in size and value.

“We have said to NZ Care’s parent company, Healthcare of NZ Ltd, that we need to bridge the pay gap,” says PSA Assistant Secretary Warwick Jones.

“We are trying to negotiate how we bridge that gap and were hoping to make some progress on that issue during tomorrow’s mediation.’’

The PSA is negotiating for around 1200 community support workers who belong to the union and are employed by Healthcare of NZ Ltd.

They provide support for people with severe disabilities who live in community houses that are run by NZ Care, a division of Healthcare of NZ Ltd. They also visit homes and support people who are incapacitated by disability, illness or age.

The PSA has given Healthcare of NZ more than two weeks notice of industrial action. Low level action involving the union’s 1200 members at the company is due to start tomorrow, Monday August 25.

“We have been forced to give noticed of industrial action because Healthcare of NZ has made no offer in response to our claim that we need to bridge the pay gap between its workers and health assistants,” says Warwick Jones.

“It’s unacceptable for the company to say the workers can’t have a pay rise when they’re among the lowest paid workers in the country.”

The starting pay for NZ Care workers supporting disabled residents in community houses is just $12.50 an hour, only 50 cents above the minimum wage. The workers going into homes to support people with reduced mobility are paid as little as $12.96 an hour, just 96 cents above the minimum wage.

“These workers can ill afford to take industrial action but they’ve been left with no choice because Healthcare NZ has refused to respond to their legitimate claim for a pay rise,” says Warwick Jones.

“We have given the company more than two weeks notice of the action so it’s had plenty of time to make arrangements to cover the action.”

“We hope the mediation tomorrow will lead to some meaningful progress on the issue of bridging the pay gap for these community support workers,” says Warwick Jones.

The PSA agrees with NZCare that the disability support sector requires adequate and consistent funding.

“The Ministry of Health, district health boards and the ACC must begin providing the disability sector with the funding it needs so community support workers can be fairly paid for the work they do,” says Warwick Jones.


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