There is a lot that is good about the Equal Pay Amendment Bill. But we are also concerned that it has some significant faults. So what are the major problems with the Equal Pay Amendment Bill? Well, we think there are five:
1. The draft law has too much scope for employers to stall and delay equal pay negotiations
While pay equity should initially be a matter for negotiation between workers and employers, we are worried the Bill gives a resistant employer too much scope to stall a negotiation before workers can seek a pay equity determination from the Courts. We think there should be fewer barriers and we also support having a time limit on negotiation/bargaining - so that bargaining doesn’t go on endlessly - and changing the first step of “arguability” so that it doesn’t hold up negotiation/bargaining.
2. The draft law needs to have more support for equal pay settlements across sectors
The success of the sector-wide settlement in the Kristine Bartlett case - for 55,000 aged care, home support and disability support workers – shows how important this is. As it stands, the Bill needs to include more to make sector-wide (multi-employer) equal pay settlements easier, rather than favouring individual, employer-by-employer settlements.
3. The draft law needs to use the existing collective bargaining process not add a new one
The Joint Working Group on Equal Pay recommended using a collective bargaining approach to achieve equal pay. But the Bill includes some confusing new and untested collective bargaining processes. This is asking for trouble and we say it should just use the bargaining law we already have in the Employment Relations Act.
4. Someone needs to be checking that the equal pay settlements that get negotiated are up to scratch
Where an individual employer and worker negotiate an equal pay settlement we worry that, with the imbalance in relative power between employer and employee, an unscrupulous employer could force through a sub-standard pay equity settlement. So we think there should be an oversight mechanism to keep an eye on things. We propose that labour inspectors should have the power to refer cases of poor pay equity settlements to the Employment Relations Authority, and that the ‘exceptional circumstances’ test for re-opening a case in the current Bill, should be softened.
5. The draft law halts all claims currently in progress
As it stands, the Bill ends all pay equity claims currently in progress and requires claimants to re-lodge their claim under the new law. The Post Primary Teachers Association currently has a claim before the Courts on behalf of part-time teachers, and under the current Bill that would have to be scrapped. We don’t think that’s fair – for claims that have been filed and are in progress we think they should have the choice of either progressing under the existing law or re-filing.
The Bill is currently being considered by Parliament and we are concerned that the politicians aren’t paying enough attention to these problems. That’s why we’re asking Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to step in and get these issues addressed. So, if you haven’t already, please sign the petition and add your name to the calls for our Prime Minister to fix this.