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Shakti calls for pay equity for NGO sector

With the recent pay equity settlement for Oranga Tamariki workers, Shakti echoes the distressed concerns of Anglican Trust for Women and Children and Barnados. The widening of the pay gap between the NGO sector and government will result in further strains on critical frontline services, especially for women and child victims if pay equity options are also not extended to the NGO sector.

“While the NGO sector is known to come under Community & Voluntary Services, its positioning as the third sector is taken for granted,” says Shila Nair, Senior Advisor, Shakti.

“While there is an expectation that those who work in this space need to be predominantly volunteers, sustainability of critical services is dependent on appropriately qualified and registered staff like social workers and counsellors. However funding contracts by government departments do not take this into consideration and provides partial funding to deliver services without considering wage scales of those employed”, she said.

Agencies like Shakti provide critical, life-saving, culturally specialist domestic violence services for women and children from Asian, Middle Eastern and African communities. Shakti operates 24/7, 365 days a year and offers support to victims who on most occasions are in a life and death situation.

“While we support the victims unconditionally, without the work that such agencies do, there would be many more deaths and grievous bodily harm occurring in New Zealand. It is also important to note that such critical services are heavily feminised in terms of response systems and undervaluing and underpaying such professionals is tantamount to exploiting the goodwill and generosity of workers, who volunteer many more hours than what they are compensated for,” said Nair.

“As workers in this sector, we are also struggling to keep up with the cost of living, the rising prices of petrol, housing and food. This ultimately reflects a devaluation of work associated with women and is an issue of gender inequality.” says Mengzhu Fu, National Youth Coordinator for Shakti.

“The under-resourcing of the NGO sector, a sector that government heavily relies on, perpetuates gendered and racialised poverty,” she continues.

“Pay equity needs to be extended to the NGO sector through sufficient and equitable government funding, so that well-trained and valued staff do not job-hop to government departments merely because of higher wages. We call on the government to introduce industry wage standards for the NGO sector that need to employ professionals such as social workers and counsellors in a sustainable manner,” said Nair.

In the CEDAW Concluding Observations released this year, the CEDAW Committee recommended the government to take measures to reduce poverty and improve the economic empowerment of women, especially rural women, Māori, Pacific, Asian, migrant and refugee women. As a signatory of this international treaty, the government needs to take action to meet these recommendations.

Shakti Community Council Inc provides 24/7 crisis support services through the 0800 SHAKTI crisis line and supports hundreds of women and children annually from Asian, Middle Eastern and African communities. To donate to support the continuation of these services visit our website: https://shakti-international.org

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