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Pay Equity Deal could leave some clients in limbo

Support workers will rejoice today as the long-fought pay equity deal gets the sign off.

55,000 workers will get a pay rise of up to 43%, across Government sectors including Aged Residential Care, Home Support, and Disability Services. It is a huge win for a part of New Zealand’s employment that has gone long underpaid for far too long.

But who picks up the tab? And, what does this all look like after the election later this year?

As it pertains to disability support services; it is a sector made up primarily of women. There are men, too, who work as carers and provide home help but they are mostly overshadowed by their female counterparts. Those counterparts, rightly so, are very loud and have historically tried to “fight the system”.

Underpinning this long battle is the reality that women are not paid on an equal level to men.

Poor coordination, underfunded providers, and a lack of quality care workers in the sector are not addressed in today’s announcement. An extra $500 million per year – that is the cost of this victory. A fair and well deserved victory, but a very expensive one nonetheless. Productivity and output are not measured in the decision either.

Newstalk ZB host Mike Hosking was very right when he said that once one group of people get a rise in pay, everyone then sticks their hand up wanting the same. He was also right when he eluded to the fact that workers won’t be being required to put in any extra hours or have additional tasks added to their regular duties.

Ah – but that statement forgets that there are already many support workers that go above and beyond the people they support. They work extra hours, often for little to no compensation.

While this news comes as a big win for the care sector, it will come at a major cost, but not only to who you’d think. Disabled people and their families will feel the impact of this too, and their current allocation of funding won’t manage the tsunami of pay increase demands that will come as a result. The funding must increase, not just the pay rate of support workers.

There is a tremendous risk here – and it could ultimately backfire on those most needing the support who have such little flexibility with funding as it is.

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