Friday, 20 February 2009

Quick hit: Pay equity for women is just too expensive

I fumed when I spotted this on the front page of this morning's Herald:
The Government has axed two investigations aimed at improving the pay of women as it tries to save money by controlling public sector salaries.

The inquiries were aimed at female social workers at Child, Youth and Family, who are paid 9.5 per cent less than their male colleagues, and at inequities in the pay of mainly female school support workers.

But State Services Minister Tony Ryall said the investigations would "generate an additional form of remuneration pressure that is unaffordable in the current economic and fiscal environment".

I think the article in print may actually be longer than the version on-line? I'll check when I'm back at the screen face late today.

These investigations were not just two in isolation; they are actually part of a roll-out of pay equity measures right across the state sector, which had yet to get to the big groups of public employees. Labour's plans (someone correct me if I have this wrong) were to do the public sector first as a way of putting pressure on the private sector to address pay equity too.

But paying women workers a fair wage is just too costly. Clearly, ladies, we are not worth it.


Anna said...

This was my great fear about the recession - it would be used to justify anti-worker stuff and entrench existing inequalities.

I can cope with the 'sharing the pain' idea to some degree, but this isn't sharing at all - it's dumping a disproportionate part of the burden on already underpaid and undervalued female social workers, W&I workers, etc.

And apparently pay equity is not a social justice issue, but a nicety you worry about when times are good.


Principessa said...

This could be the start of a good campaign for those of us on the left. This sort of crap makes me want to hit the streets.

macdoctor said...

While I agree with your sentiments, I should point out that Labour had nine good years of surplus to sort this out. At least National have a half-way-decent excuse.

Deborah said...

That's not the point, Macdoctor. The point is that National have dumped on women.

Tidge said...

That's totally unacceptable, the recession is no excuse. There is always going to be something making it difficult. If it's so expensive, then why not pull down the men's salaries to the women's level rather than vice versa? See how they like it.

Is Tony Ryall the appropriate person to write an angry letter to?

Dave said...

Labour have been dumping on women for years. And it had a policy to dump on them. Why didn't you jump up and down then. You had 9 years to do it.

Psycho Milt said...

If it's so expensive, then why not pull down the men's salaries to the women's level rather than vice versa?

The men's salaries already are "pulled down" to the women's level - that's been a legal requirement in this country for decades.

It would help if the reporting of pay equity issues was a little more honest. I doubt very much that female CYF staff really are "paid 9.5 per cent less than their male colleagues" as the Herald reports, because that would be illegal. The article notes further down:

An earlier review found that the 9.5 per cent gap in the CYF pay rates was primarily due to the fact that 80 per cent of its social workers were women.

Presumably, social workers are at the lower end of the CYF pay scales, and the higher proportion of women at the low end is dragging down the average.

In other words, what we're looking at here is not "CYF paying women 9.5% less," which is simply untrue and should earn the reporter a metaphorical kick up the arse from their boss, we're looking at a concentration of women in jobs at the lower end of the CYF pay scales. Finding out why that is and trying to do something about it would indeed be a worthwhile activity, but it's not a "pay equity" issue.

Anna said...

Dave - you'll have to be a bit more specific? Which one was Labour's women-dumping policy?

Psycho - undervaluing of women-dominated professions is indeed a pay equity issue (one of many - it's a complex area). IE police work and nursing were deemed (by someone) to be equal on scales of expertise requirements, risk, etc, but nursing still lags behind police work in pay.

stargazer said...

macdoctor, you must have missed the massive nurses settlement, that finally brought up nurses salary to somewhere nearer the level they should be based on the qualifications required for the job. also, teachers salaries had a significant boost.

the fact is that they were systematically sorting it out, going through the various sectors. these studies were part of that programme.

Danielle said...

So. Infuriated. by this. I am basically incoherent about it, actually. (I suppose this doesn't make much of a change for me, now that I think about it. Heh.)

Tidge said...

"Why didn't you jump up and down then."

a) Personally, I've only recently reached an age where I started thinking about such things. All apologies for not fighting for women's rights since birth.

b) Labour started off this programme to identify and rectify pay disparity.

c) National have decided to abandon it.

d) Although it doesn't really matter to me who did what. I didn't vote for either of them. Had Labour won the election and dismantled the scheme I would be just as angry.

Psycho Milt: What Anna said - and my statement was a hyperbole in aid of making a point, and I know the situation is complex. Sorry if it sounded flippant; I forget that text doesn't carry much nuance.

But just because there is a legal requirement that women be paid equally, it's hardly enforceable when most businesses have a non-disclosure clause in their employment contracts re: employees discussing salaries amongst themselves. It's a bit of a Catch 22, don't you think?

Lucy said...

But State Services Minister Tony Ryall said the investigations would "generate an additional form of remuneration pressure that is unaffordable in the current economic and fiscal environment".

'Cause ladies, you're only worth equal pay in good economic times! Otherwise you can STFU.


M-H said...

Appalling. Just dreadful. I remember the original fight for equal pay in the Public Service (Margaret Long was a champion) and I can't believe it is being undermined like this. And what a feeble excuse - justice is related to the state of the economy? Phat! (That was me spitting.)

Giovanni said...

In the States they've just (finally) introduced pay parity measures, and arguably they could afford them a lot less than we do. But suspending social justice and equality in the name of a recession is indeed rather peculiar. As I might have observed on PAS earlier today, we might as well decide to not let women vote at the next election as a cost saving measure. It makes just as much sense.

Anonymous said...

I too, was horrified to read this, but sadly not suprised. Just makes me wonder why so many young women decided to cross over to the dark-side and vote for National? Ignorance I guess. Feminism is failing to reach these women. Has anyone else noticed that feminism has suddenly become an even dirtier word, and not just to men, but to women as well? Frightening!

Julie said...

I have a modest plan for crimping Tony Ryall's style a wee bit. More once I can work out if I can do it from a technical stand-point.

frog said...

Please come help me out here - the same old sexist memes are playing out on my post on the same topic.

Ari said...

"The men's salaries already are "pulled down" to the women's level - that's been a legal requirement in this country for decades."

That doesn't stop men from being promoted ahead of women who are more qualified and experienced.

Anna said...

Frog, I wasn't clever enough to work out how to comment after your post, but the discussion seems to be buying into that classic circular argument about pay equity:

Women should be paid less because we choose to be primary caregivers (and therefore show we're not committed to the workforce), and women choose to be primary caregivers because we get paid less in the workforce.

It's an argument that neatly blames women's personal choices (if perpetuating the human race can be called a 'choice') for the pay gap.

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