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Pay women more, pretty simple

Metiria Turei MP
Metiria Turei MP
metiria [dot] turei [at] parliament [dot] govt [dot] nz (Email)

Māori women are paid 22% less than men. Pacific women are paid 26% less than men. These are pay gaps driven by sexism and bias.  These are pay gaps that have real impacts on women’s lives. Having less income to pay rent, feed your children and take of yourself is an imbalance that is unfair and unacceptable. We all know this, but we need a Government that will actually take the action needed to pay women more.

The gender pay gap has been highlighted through the Kristine Bartlett case and the CTU’s Treat Her Right campaign. But even as the gender pay gap is more visible generally, it is rarely mentioned that Māori and Pacific women earn so much less than men as well as Pakeha women.

As a Māori woman, I am concerned about the invisibility of my peers. Women who are working hard, sometimes 2-3 low paid jobs, and still they struggle to provide for their families.  It’s outrageous the government has ignored this for so long.

I have heard mothers talk about their children missing school because they don’t have enough petrol to drive or food for lunch boxes; children missing school trips and other education, and mums not going to the doctor because of the cost.  We all know these situations aren’t good enough in Aotearoa NZ.  We want people to be as healthy as possible and that means having a decent wage.

When I questioned the Minister for Women Paula Bennett about this today, she fudged the answer. Once again she pushed women’s income down her pile of priorities. The National Government simply doesn’t think women’s rights should be on their to-do list; instead they leave attaining those rights up to to voluntary measures. It hasn’t worked. We need a Government that will actively ensure women are paid more.

Given the law requires that she is paid the same as her male colleagues, Paula Bennett needs to recognise that just as she benefits from the law, she has the power the extend that right to thousands of other women.

The Greens have solid proposals to fix this. For instance, making employers release gender pay audits helps to identify and end gender pay imbalances. Therefore, we would make it law for employers to keep a transparent pay index. Today, I asked the Government to adopt our Member’s Bill. They refused.

International Women’s Day is also a prime opportunity to make a pay offer to Kristine Bartlett. She has been waiting for 18 months for the Government to make good on its commitment and put their money where their mouth is. It’s completely unacceptable that the lowest paid workers have had to lead this fight, while the Government first resisted and is now delaying. It’s time for them to be bold and front up with the money and the legislation.

The Green Party says “Pay women more” because we stand for equality and we know it will be good for everyone when women’s pay is fair. Women in Aotearoa work hard every day, in every job – they deserve real action on pay equality, not just lip service.

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