|The 'Caring Counts' report that helped deliver a long overdue |
$2 billion dollar gender pay-equity deal
|Jane Fonda's 2011 TED talk on the power of ageing |
and justice for the aged
Politics is a dirty business, make no mistake, and our right-wing government's recent decision to support a massive pay-equity increase to the mostly female workforce employed in the aged care and wider paid-care sector is a blatant election-year stunt.
The same government previously went out of its way to block pay equity and before that, in 1991, its ideological ancestors passed the Employment Contracts Act that did away with collective bargaining, dismantling the union's power and leaving it up to the individual to negotiate his/her own wages and conditions. Hence the pay gap between employers and employees, rich and poor, men and women increased steeply, and was particularly stark in the female-dominated caring sector. As the Caring Counts report stated:
"Carers are completely undervalued. We do a job that no-one sees.
We are a vulnerable workforce looking after vulnerable people."
The courts also finally ruled that NZ was in breach of the International Labour Organisation Equal Remuneration Convention (1983). In fact there was equal-pay legislation in place in New Zealand as far back as 1972 and the left-wing had done its best to equalise pay for women and other disadvantaged groups whenever it was in government. But as in all western countries the bastards on the wrong wing have dominated and have systematically set about undoing many of these pay-equity gains.
If the present wrong-wingers use this move as leverage to get reelected for a fourth term I worry that the gains won't be worth the price paid, as they will no doubt continue to cut funding in the rest of the health-care system beyond election year. It's a depressing thought and a fundamental flaw in the democratic system.
But I take some comfort in public politicisation processes, like TED talks, that are proliferating every year and giving voice to an ever wider array of people, like Jane Fonda, who have the power to popularise unpopular messages, such as justice for the older of age and older women specifically - 'the largest demographic in the world' - to a global, cross-partisan, cross-cultural, all-age, all-gender audience. The future of justice for all is in their hands, ultimately, as party politics and the formal political system become increasingly corrupted by big money and big fear-mongering madness.
Still, in the short term this is a big win for NZ's women and a massive credit to the tireless work of one woman in particular, whose caring work in looking after the elderly for twenty years was valued over that period, if not always, as work of minimum value to society. Rubbish collection (men's work) is paid more. But she showed them her real worth in never giving up and so paved the way, as far as she could, for justice for other chronically undervalued women. Thanks Kristine; your work is priceless.