Health care workers pay increase – fair-pay or fish-hooks?




Some Context


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The National Government said that their signature 2010 income tax cut package would be ‘fiscally neutral’ — paid for increased revenues from raising GST. That hasn’t happened. The net cost for tax cuts has been about $2 billion.


When National claims it must cut spending for vital public services like health and education to control its borrowing, it carries much of the blame.” – former Green Party Co-leader, Dr Russel Norman, 14 May 2012


The reliance of New Zealand, of all of us, on the emotional umbilical cord between women working as carers and the older people they care for at $13-14 an hour is a form of modern-day slavery.” –  Judy McGregor, Equal opportunities commissioner, 28 May 2012


It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash. As the country moves back to surplus it’s one of the areas we can look at but I think most people would accept this isn’t the time we have lots of extra cash.


We put the money into cancer care and nursing and various other things. On balance, we think we got that about right.” – John Key, former Prime Minister, 28 May 2012


Cabinet today agreed to a $2 billion pay equity package to be delivered over the next five years to 55,000 care and support workers employed across the aged and residential care sector.”- Bill English, current Prime Minister, 18 April 2017


The Announcement

On 18 April, Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman and Finance Minister, Bill English, announced that healthcare workers in the disability, residential care, and home/community support sector had successfully won their pay-equity claim;



The response from the trade union movement was positive;

Unions representing care and support workers are pleased to be jointly announcing with government a proposed equal pay settlement to 55,000 workers across the aged residential, disability and home support sectors.

The proposed settlement is a huge win and will make a real difference in valuing the work of care and support workers and the people they support, workers in the sector say. It is a significant step in addressing gender inequality in New Zealand.


E tū Assistant National Secretary, John Ryall says the offer once ratified will mean a “once in a lifetime pay rise which will end poverty wages for this mainly female workforce and set them on the path to a better life. We’re delighted today’s proposed settlement recognises the justice of Kristine’s case and the wonderful work of Kristine and other professional carers.”

New Zealand Nurses Organisation Industrial Services Manager Cee Payne says that “This equal settlement delivers pay rates that truly reflect the skills and importance of the work that care and support workers undertake every day. Decent pay rates and the right to achieve qualifications will grow and retain skilled workers to care for our elderly. This will build public confidence that high quality care will be delivered to our families’ loved ones in our rest homes and hospitals.”

PSA National Secretary Erin Polaczuk says: “This settlement will make a real difference to our members.  Our members in home support and disability support play a vital role in empowering people to live independent lives in their own communities. This settlement recognises the value of the work they do – and the people they support.”

Unions say the government is to be commended for agreeing to negotiate this settlement offer, rather than waiting for years before the legal process was finally exhausted.

However, there remain unanswered questions to this “deal”.

Questions raised

On 22 April I wrote to Health Minister Coleman;

On 18 April you announced that disability, residential care, and home and community support services will  have their pay increased in a pay-equity settlement costing $2 billion over five years.

In your 18 April press release you stated;

“A care and support worker on the minimum wage with three years’ experience and no qualifications will receive a 27 per cent increase in their hourly wage rate moving from $15.75 to $20 per hour from July 1. That rate would progressively increase to $23 by July 2021 and would rise further if they attain a higher qualification.”

I have some questions regarding this issue, namely;

1. Why was the settlement not back-dated when MPs automatically have their pay-increases backdated? Especially when negotiations with relevant parties was announced nearly two years ago on 20 October 2015 (by yourself) and has been on-going since.

2. Will workers who are deemed to qualify for pay-equity wage increases  be determined solely by their employer?

3. What measures will be put in place to ensure that workers are paid appropriately and pay increases not arbitrarily with-held by employer(s)?

4. You state that the amount of $2 billion will be  “spread over five years” and  increases will be implemented incrementally over an annual basis. If so, how will that incremental amount be determined?

5. If the answer to Q4 is “yes”, will the planned increases be inflation-adjusted, to prevent any increase being watered-down by inflation?

6.Will the settlement amount be increased over time to compensate for annual rises to the Minimum Wage?

7. Will the equal-pay settlement and increase in wages have any impact on future Union-Employer wage negotiations? Or will future negotiations and demands for pay rises be considered a part of the pay-equity settlement?

8. Will NGOs who qualify for the pay equity settlement for their workers have their Budget-allocations cut in other areas?

9. How will pay rises for workers who quality for pay equity settlement impact on contract negotiations with relevant NGOs?

10. You state that “The $2.048 billion settlement over five years will be funded through an increase of $1.856 billion to Vote Health and $192 million to ACC.  ACC levies are set for the coming years, but may possibly increase over the next decade to support this”. If ACC levies rise, will workers who qualify for the settlement be compensated for having to pay an increased ACC levy?

Call me a cynic, but I sense fish-hooks in the detail. When National cut taxes in 2010, they gave with one hand;



– and took with the other;



When it comes to fish-hooks, National has prior ‘form’. Even when National announces an ‘increase’ in social spending, it often takes that funding from other areas. Even special-needs children are not exempt from National’s shell-scam, as reported in The Daily Blog  in August last year;

Education Minister, Hekia Parata, revealed that primary and secondary schools’ funding for special needs students would be slashed, and the money re-directed to under-fives. As Radio NZ explained;

The [Cabinet] documents also indicated the government would reduce the amount of special education funding spent in the school sector, and dramatically increase the amount spent on those under the age of five.

“Analysis of the spend by the age range of the recipient indicates that a disproportionate amount of the funds are for school-age children. This is despite clear evidence in some areas that early support can have greater benefits in terms of educational outcomes.”

As implications of Parata’s scheme began to percolate through the education sector, reaction was scathing.

I won’t be celebrating until I read the fine print and get some answers.

Watch out for…






Infonews: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

Dominion Post: Resthome spy hails saint-like workers

TVNZ News: Cabinet agrees to $2 billion pay equity package for ‘dedicated’ low-paid care workers

Beehive: $2 billion pay equity settlement for 55,000 health care workers

NZCTU: Historic day as caregivers offered equal pay settlement

Beehive: Government to enter negotiations over pay for care and support workers

NZ Herald: Budget 2010 – Experts praise tax cuts for all

NZ Herald:  GST rise will hurt poor the most

Fairfax media: Young workers out of pocket

Fairfax media: Prescription price rise hits vulnerable

Scoop media: Vulnerable children at risk from Family Court fees increase

Radio NZ: Govt to phase out ‘special needs’


Radio NZ: Settlement could help rest homes attract workers

Employment New Zealand: Previous minimum wage rates

NZ Herald: MPs’ pay rise officially confirmed

Radio NZ: MPs given 2.5 percent pay rise

Other Blogs

No Right Turn: A victory for women

The Daily Blog: Courts finally give the poorest workers what the Government wouldn’t and the Unions couldn’t

The Standard: Thank you health care workers

Werewolf: Gordon Campbell on the aged-care settlement

Previous related blogposts

1 March – No Rest for Striking Workers! (1 March 2012)

No Rest for the Wicked (23 March 2012)

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash” (28 May 2012)

Roads, grandma, and John Key (18 July 2012)

John Key’s track record on raising wages – 4. Rest Home Workers (11 November 2012)

Aged Care: The Price of Compassion (16 November 2012)

That was Then, This is Now #22 – Lowest wages vs Highest wages (31 January 2014)

The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation? (31 October 2015)

Special Education Funding – Robbing Peter, Paul, and Mary to pay Tom, Dick, and Harriet (27 August 2016)







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  1. The scales have never been balanced. Justice, fairness and equality are words bandied but never put in place. We remain hamsters until we blow up the wheel and get rid of those who make the wheels. This “grand” action is for show to keep the hamsters placated.

    • You’re right @ HELENA.
      Unfortunately, too, life must go on. So don’t go too far into the deep, dark cave.
      I’m in favour of a Direct Action Unit to go and ask questions then report accordingly.
      Have you ever been questioned by the cops once they’ve been alerted to any wrong doing? They’re merciless in their quest to unearth the Truth, often hidden under a tangle of lies. I don’t think every cop’s driven by some sort of sense of good or of what’s right and proper. I think most of them simply love the challenge of sieving the bullshit from the gold dust.
      Having said that, there’s an enormous pile of bullshit covering NZ from one end to the other.
      Here’s why. And why it’s so difficult to shovel off.
      Our criminals, like gibb, fay, richwhite, meyers etc are well educated. They’re soulless narcissists with a greed/power psychiatry gluing up their works but by God, are they clever. Cunning is perhaps more accurate.
      They were smart enough to change laws, by corrupting weak willed politicians, into doing their bidding. I.e. Think of a profitable endeavour and if it’s against the laws to plunder it? Simple. Change the laws. Then, go for it quick before someone twigs on.
      I’ve just described the mid 1980’s , the rise of so called ‘ neoliberalism’ and why tricky micky fay has his own island, Mercury Island, a helicopter, with crew on standby in Auckland, and has a net wealth, according to the NBR of $850 million equal to his Bro richwhite. As for gibb? Jesus ! Just listen to the creepy little man talk to Kim Hill here.

      Does he fly his helicopter along Queen Street to peer down on the poverty stricken like he did in Cambodia, Laos and Thailand? “ Amazing what you can see from 500 feet. “
      I bet it’d be amazing what we could see if we could wipe off your bullshit.

      Are we ever going to see into the pit of snakes that is the lies told to us by those same criminals who swindled us, and continue to do so, while they hide behind the very laws of the state they say they hate so much, that gave them so much at our expense after they changed the Laws.

      Are the police ever going to investigate ? No. Not until there are law changes and as we all know, laws are easy to make and almost impossible to reverse.
      Is there some way of showing the public just how manipulated and swindled they were, and are, so as to make radical changes at a street level? No. Because the very same criminals who made the laws to protect their criminal activities also own the MSM and are moving in on the internet. Five eyes in Queenstown? The dawn of a new tougher age of control pretending it’s in our best interests by using terrorism as a mechanism to augment that kind of deep state shit that’ll watch, and punish, accordingly. Even the spectre of that kind of control is, in a sense, punishment BEFORE the crime. Fear and anxiety is a punishing thing to have to live with as the French are beginning to understand.
      The one thing that our well educated criminals fear the most is numbers. Large numbers of people asking the same questions and then when the answers start coming in? Discuss what to do about it?
      Meanwhile, tin pot dictators like gibbs spread manure to enshrine his position within his fiefdom as good Kiwi people lie in the cold in the gutters and spiritually decay in front of our very own eyes. Is that just not ghastly? Is that not just about the most awful thing to see, therefore endure as a memory of a days passing?
      Good work at Frank x

  2. Yes frank you are so right as usual.

    “When National announces an ‘increase’ in social spending, it often takes that funding from other areas.”

    Well they have stolen all the money from looking after the health of the older generation so now they need to offer the folks that look after them as they are failing in health at such an alarming rate we hear now.

    Someone needs to study how the elderly are dying so fast lately!!!!!

    Now that dental care is not subsidised for the elderly and poor, we are hearing stories from Dentists that are warning that the elderly who come to them for dental problems now, cant face the large bill to repair their teeth now so these elderly are becoming very ill as the decaying teeth cause blood poisoning from the decaying teeth and that causes toxin’s to enter their blood & poison them.

    Nactional have created a sick elderly generation now and are criminal of destroying the health of the elderly and may will be liable of their premature death’s now inflicted on them since they removed the “emergency” dental repair allowance in 2009.

    Bloody criminals they are.

  3. Of course there will be fishhooks, there is nothing this present government offers that does not come with fishhooks.–pay-equity-legislation-fundamentally-flawed-says-ctu

    “However, Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff said it contained a “limiting mechanism” for choosing and agreeing comparators for claimants which was at odds with the existing Equal Pay Act, the recent Court of Appeal Judgement and was impractical.

    Rather than allowing for the negotiating parties to proceed on the basis of a general agreement over comparable roles, it forces them into pre-negotiations to agree on specific roles, before mediation can begin.

    It would ultimately impede women making claims for equal pay, and it was not the way comparator roles aided negotiations in the Bartlett case, Wagstaff said.

    “Comparators are a crucial part of assessing whether pay inequity exists. Women need to be able to select the most appropriate comparator for their particular role regardless of who their employer happens to be,” he said.

    “The fairest outcome is for the best and most relevant comparator to be selected in each circumstance. This Bill as it stands will trap many low paid women on discriminatory wage rates.” ?

    And to pay for the settlement they announced recently, there is already talk of increasing ACC levies, or introducing higher user pay charges, for persons referring elderly into care (to cover the additional costs of care).

    Remember also:

    “Health Minister Tony Ryall says there will be a cap on payments to family members caring for their disabled relatives to ensure the Government can afford the new policy forced by the courts.”

    As a result, all such family carers got, that is if they bothered to follow the cumbersome procedure to apply for support, was the minimum wage, as far as I can remember.

    See this:

  4. Another example of how the government gives with one hand and takes with the other:

    ‘Budget 2015: Benefits up – but obligations are too’–but-obligations-are-too-2015052114

    “Benefit-dependent families will be about $25 a week better off after tax, the first increase to benefits above inflation in more than four decades.”

    “The catch is solo parents will have to be available for part-time work when their youngest child turns three – it’s currently five. That’s expected to affect around 18,000 families.”

    “Beneficiaries with part-time work obligations will also have to find 20 hours’ work a week, up from 15.”

    And I think that article does not even explain how most on benefits will face abatements, so if they get a few dollars extra, it may affect other parts of benefits, that are top-ups, which may be reduced at the same time (e.g. TAS, temporary additional support, SB, special benefit, or simply by reaching thresholds for maximum payments, certainly also when earning a little extra on top of all that).

    The MSM and the public only hear and read the headlines, and little detail, and once more informed persons present the small print, most have switched off and moved on. That way the public generally gets a somewhat distorted impression of what really goes on.

  5. Nothing is ever as it seems or as the positive headline any Nat minister clings to.

    Just like the supposed abolition of zero hour contracts by National tinkering with labour laws in response to so much negative publicity about this reprehensible conduct, it appears Zero hours are still being exploited once the dust settled and unscrupulous employers adapted themselves to the new laws that changed nothing. But National looked all magnanimous and willing to listen at the time, didn’t they?

    This “win” will be watered down and diffused to nothing at the end. Noting that this is to be spread over 5 years in classic National Party style to allow National the wriggle room to make adjustments to laws to a) ensure no other worker will ever be advantaged by this win and b) give these companies time to adopt the new laws to make sure the status quo remains. I suggest a rejig to job descriptions to not qualify for better pay should do the trick.–pay-equity-legislation-fundamentally-flawed-says-ctu

    In any case I don’t think there was a win for workers, rather only a mirage of a win, taken full advantage of by National!

    • True. A National press release is generally along the lines of…

      “The good news is, you’re not going to die today. But you’ll contract some hideous wasting disease that’ll see you slowly wither away over a period of months or years. Because we’re going to cut your funding to the bone, and then blame you for your own inability to operate on the smell of an oily rag. Actually, we’ll have the rag too, thanks. Carry on. Brighter future. Cusp of something great. Etc.”

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