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Women share ‘heart-breaking’ stories of pay discrimination

Several women have come forward about their appalling experiences of discrimination over pay and progression opportunities in workplaces across the country.

These women who are part of the Human Rights Commission’s Pay Transparency campaign want information on pay scales and career progression made readily available by employers.

“As a Pacific woman of colour, there is extra effort and hoops that I need to jump through. There is a group of people in society that miss out because of what they look or sound like and that is so wrong. Pay Transparency will correct this wrong,” says Nia Bartley from Wellington.

Pay transparency is knowing whether you are being paid fairly compared with people in the same or comparable roles. A transparent mechanism is an essential component of pay equity that will provide employees with pay information to make a pay equity claim against employers.

“Without pay transparency, it is sort of like fighting fog. You are trying to validate to yourself and others that this problem exists. If we have pay transparency in place, then it’s a much easier process. We need to work a lot harder on creating a fair and equitable society,” adds Nancy McShane from Christchurch.

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo says New Zealand needs pay transparency because workers, especially Māori, Pacific and Asian women are being paid far less than men in the same or similar roles.

“So many brave women are now sharing their heart-breaking stories of how they continue to be undervalued and underpaid in the workplace. Many are parents, carers or the main income earners for their households. We need to stop talking about fairness and dignity and just get on with it!” says Saunoamaali’i.

The Commission has also formed a coalition of 10 partners who are also calling on the Government to urgently introduce pay transparency in the workplace to close the gender pay gap.

Partners include the Public Service Association, Council of Trade Unions, National Council of Women, YWCA, PACIFICA, Diversity Works, Rural Women New Zealand, Women in Urbanism, Coalition for Equal Value Equal Pay and the Women Empowerment Principles Committee.

“Pay which is a fundamental part of an employment agreement isn’t as transparent as it should be. You have to wonder why and who does it serve? It definitely doesn’t serve the people who are being paid,” says Kerry Davis of the Public Service Association.

“How can employers be fair and good leaders in the public and private sectors if they are knowingly paying some of their staff less compared to others for doing the same job?” asks Vanisa Dhiru of the National Council of Women.

“Collective Employment agreements can provide excellent pay transparency. All working people need transparent systems of salary setting and clarity on how to progress. This ensures the removal of decisions made at the discretion of the employer,” adds Richard Wagstaff of the Council of Trade Unions.

The EEO Commissioner says making pay visible will identify unconscious bias and deep discrimination within the workplace and help New Zealand close the gender and ethnic pay gaps.

“The Government and employers urgently need to act. Pay transparency is essential to ensure our workforce, especially women are professionally respected and receive equal pay for equal value of work. This would be a significant step towards eliminating discrimination,” says Saunoamaali’i.

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