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Action on bank gender pay gap must begin at the bottom

FIRST Union today welcomed Westpac’s public admission of the significant gender pay gap in its workforce and reiterated its call for employers to work with unions to close this disparity, arguing that this work must begin at the bottom of the pay scales.

“It’s no secret that a number of New Zealand’s major employers have a guilty secret – they aren’t paying women fairly – and it’s because their entry-level customer service roles are done predominantly by women, lowering the bottom of the wage scale,” said Tali Williams, FIRST Union Secretary for Retail, Finance and Commerce.

“We applaud Westpac for their transparency and proactivity, and we hope other banks will follow suit and report publicly about gender-based wage disparities in their workplaces – it’s time customers and prospective employees know who they are supporting.”

“However, we would place much more emphasis on the cause of the gender pay gap being low wages for the lowest-paid workers, many of whom are women in customer service roles.”

“It’s been our focus in terms of both pay equity and equal pay, and Westpac’s admission that the gender pay gap is as much as 30% really confirms that structural inequality at the bottom is stymying progress at the top – on boardroom seats for women, for example.”

FIRST Union General Secretary Dennis Maga has today been in contact with Westpac CEO David McLean to congratulate the bank for their willingness to address the gender pay gap, and Mr McLean has accepted FIRST Union’s offer to work together imminently on the issue.

“Businesses shouldn’t have to pay a lot of money for consultants to report on the issue,” says Ms Williams. “Public reporting should be required and enshrined in law.”

“Unions are already well-aware of the gender pay gap thanks to our members, and we’re always willing to work with employers to address this.”

“We’re thrilled that Westpac are committed to eliminating their gender pay gap, and we look forward to the oncoming discussions about lifting the wages of the lowest-paid workers.”


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