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Call to address pay equity for community social workers

Call to address pay equity for community social workers gathers urgency this Social Workers’ Day

Organisations representing community social services and social workers have joined forces to launch a collective call for pay equity and fair funding this Social Workers’ Day 2021.

Employers, union representatives and social worker advocates say the untenable pay gap is making it hard to attract and retain social workers in non-government and iwi organisations, and compromising services to the children, rangatahi, families, whānau and communities around the motu who they serve.

The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW), Western Bay of Plenty's SociaLink, Social Service Providers Aotearoa and the PSA launched their collective call today—Aotearoa New Zealand Social Workers’ Day.

They say action is needed to remedy the significant pay gap between social sector workers in community and iwi organisations and those in government, because of the detrimental impact the pay gap is having. The Government needs to step up to resolve the pay gap with fair funding for community and iwi social services. Given these organisations and the services they provide are largely government funded, addressing the pay gap relies on government making funding available.

Social workers in iwi and community organisations earn on average $25,000 a year less than those working in government agencies, despite having the same qualifications and skills, and often working with the same children, rangatahi, families and whānau. The pay gap stems from historic underfunding of the community social services sector.

SociaLink is an umbrella organisation for social agencies and charities in the Western Bay. General manager Liz Davies says NGO social sector workers have a vital role.

"They are ensuring the most vulnerable people receive the services they need to have a decent quality of life. Pay equity means the value of their work is recognised so they can serve their communities better."

The Public Service Association has begun taking action to achieve equal pay for NGO social workers and social service workers, with a pay equity claim against five representative social services providers.

PSA spokesperson Josh Gardner said, “Unions have achieved pay equity for other sectors. To gain momentum and be successful, this claim needs the collective voice and support of workers in the social sector, and today is about lifting up that collective voice.”

Social Service Providers Aotearoa is coordinating the employer response to the current PSA claim, and representing the wider sector. Pay Equity Co-ordinator Brenda Pilott says there is an urgent need to remedy pay inequity in the sector and the underfunding that drives that.

“Community and iwi social workers do essential, demanding and complex work every day to support better outcomes for children, rangatahi and whānau, but this is not reflected in their pay. We are committed to responding to the current claim as a united sector—working together for a sector-wide solution. We are looking to government to move quickly to close this gender pay gap for this group of essential workers.”

ANZASW Kaiwhakahaere Chief Executive Braden Clark said, “The social work profession is overrepresented by women who tirelessly work to better Aotearoa New Zealand. It is entirely unfair that community and iwi social workers are paid significantly less than male dominated industries and their colleagues, who do equivalent work, in statutory organisations.

As part of the collective call to action, a series of short video interviews has been released today, bringing together the voices of sector representatives, social workers and managers. The videos are being shared through social agencies and social media, and are available at www.anzasw.nz/pay-equity/

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