All the way for equal pay

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Kristine Bartlett is a hero. She and her union, the SWFU, are spearheading the fight for equal pay through the courts. Last year Bartlett was in the Employment Court to argue that her miserable $14.46 an hour after 20 years experience as a caregiver breached the Equal Pay Act 1972. Her reasoning was that her pay was less than men would get for work of the same level of skill, effort and responsibility. She won. In a landmark decision the court ruled for the first time that the Act applied to comparisons between predominantly women’s jobs and men’s.

Bartlett’s employer, the rest home operator Terranova Homes & Care Ltd, appealed the decision with financial assistance from the New Zealand Aged Care Association. The case went to the Court of Appeal on 4 February 2014. The Attorney-General Chris Finlayson intervened to insist that the Court hear from the Government’s representatives because the decision could have “important public policy implications.” Indeed, thousands of women doing under-valued ‘women’s work’ like caring and cleaning jobs stand to gain if the appeal court upholds the original decision. Women’s rates of pay are on average 13% below men’s. Potentially, a huge inroad into the gender-gap is at stake. [Read more...]

Family Court Reforms

The war on the poor has extended its reach to the Family Court. In the guise of protecting the vulnerable and improving the experience of those needing assistance to resolve family disputes the Government has reformed the Family Court fundamentally.

 

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Although the Minister of Justice consulted with an expert advisory group what became clear when the minister’s report and recommendations to Cabinet were released was that that the real purpose of the reforms is to reduce the cost to the state of providing such assistance.

 

From March 2014 when the reforms come into effect, parents who go to Court for assistance in resolving disputes about the care of their children will not be entitled or able to have legal representation in Court prior to the matter going to a Hearing. There are a number of pieces of legislation and Court rules and regulations over which the Family Court has jurisdiction the main one being the Care of Children Act 2004.It is unrealistic and unfair to expect those in crisis to understand and interpret its provisions.

[Read more...]

“Roastbusters”, rape, misogyny and the police

ImageforDerwinWhat an appalling set of stories. Each day it gets worse. Revelations of the abuse suffered by young women in Auckland over the last few years, and then further revelations of how their stories and complaints were ignored or dismissed by Police, have horrified many. For days media outlets kept referring to this as a ‘sex’ story, whereas in fact of course it was a story about rape and abuse. Worse, Willie Jackson and John Tamihere used their Radio Live slot as a platform to attack, not rape, but women’s behavior. The so-called “Roastbusters” revelations reveal ugly strains of misogyny in New Zealand society.

[Read more...]

Auckland Action Against Poverty Welfare Impact

560983_501014533245828_1675135460_nToday I am going to give a brief overview of the recent Auckland Action Against Poverty Welfare Impact that I attended, what drives me to work in this area, and my plans to build a sustainable welfare advocacy service in Otepoti.

Firstly, my interest in welfare stems from my upbringing, living in a household sustained by the Domestic Purposes Benefit, and my personal experience being a sole parent receiving what was called the DPB before the National Government abolished it, and classed all parents as ‘jobseekers.’

A small disclaimer: I am not a “jobseeker” and no sole parent in Aotearoa is a jobseeker.  Parents have a job already, the most important job there is, to care for our babies and build healthy, happy, and capable, children.

Recent attacks on welfare effectively undermine parenting as a valid, fundamentally important function in Aotearoa. They try to set paid workers against unpaid workers, to ensure people in the paid working class attack unpaid workers instead of the real target, the ruling class. [Read more...]

Women, Politics and Class: a Socialist Analysis for Aotearoa

Women workers: in the vanguard of Aotearoa's working class

Women workers: in the vanguard of Aotearoa’s working class

Women face a contradiction. While equal pay for women and men working for the government became the law in 1960, it wasn’t until the Equal Pay Act passed in 1972 that equal pay between the sexes across the board became legal. The Domestic Purposes Benefit, providing state support to single parents, was introduced in 1973.

Yet, four decades later, women are still paid less than men. Women’s hourly earnings are on average 12 to 15% less than men. The weekly gender pay gap is much greater because women are more likely to be in casual and part time work. Women’s average weekly pay is $879 and men’s is $1059 – a gender pay gap of 17%. The annual gender earnings gap is much wider, and this gap is widening according to Statistics NZ calculations. The recession and the earthquakes in Christchurch have all hurt women significantly more.

The Human Rights Commission wrote in their report New Zealand Census of Women’s Participation last year that “New Zealand is making, slow, incremental but unspectacular progress for women in many areas”. What they mean by unspectacular is that 22 government departments have gender pay gaps bigger than the average pay gap in the labour market; 9 government departments have more than 20% gender pay gap; women are still less than 30% of judges, less than 25% of senior academic staff; and less than 20% of top legal partnerships.

I can think of a few other adjectives than “unspectualar” to describe these damning statistics. [Read more...]

Fighting to Choose: the Abortion Rights Struggle in New Zealand

fightingtochoose__73920.1355261486.1280.1280[Alison McCulloch is a freelance journalist and abortion rights activist based in Tauranga.  Her history of the abortion rights struggle in New Zealand, Fighting to Choose, will be published by Victoria University Press next month. We spoke to Alison about her book and the campaign.]

Alison, you’re an active member of ALRANZ, the pro-choice organisation. Could you tell us a little about how you came to be involved in the campaign for abortion rights? What motivated you to start researching this topic?

I’ve been a feminist for as long as I can remember, and securing the right to access contraception and abortion is a major part of what I think it means to be a feminist. [Read more...]

Why women need abortion rights: the socialist case

Women protest in Wellington on International Women’s Day 1978 over the newly passed abortion law. [Photo from Socialist Action newspaper]

Women protest in Wellington on International Women’s Day 1978 over the newly passed abortion law. [Photo from Socialist Action newspaper]

Shomi Yoon gave this talk to the Wellington branch of the International Socialist Organisation in March.

“Not the Church, not the state, women must decide their fate”: this was the fighting slogan of the abortion rights campaign of the 1970s. Women’s liberation was a movement that swept across the world, growing out of and alongside the New Left of those days. Women were organising – protesting, campaigning, and demonstrating for the right to abortions, for equal pay, against workplace discrimination. Ideas were in ferment.

That’s a legacy we should be proud of; the organizations of that time fought for access many of us take for granted today. When you bring up abortion rights nowadays, often the response you’ll get is, ‘don’t we already have those?’ [Read more...]

Celebrating the struggle against sexism

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This talk was given to the Dunedin branch of the International Socialists by Miranda B to mark International Women’s Day 2013.

The first International Women’s Day (IWD) celebration was held over 100 years ago in 1911. In the last few years it has been taken over by mainstream or bureaucratic bodies, in particular the United Nations. In Australia, the 2011 centenary had major corporations as sponsors. Get “Platinum Empowerment” with PricewaterhouseCoopers and “Gold equality” with Avon. Big business is genuinely interested of course – in promoting women bosses, and telling rich women where to spend their money.

Indeed, the exclusivity of the whole shebang was illustrated by the NZ contingent of the United Nation international women’s committee’s invitation to a $30 breakfast at the Milford Cruising Club on Auckland’s North Shore. This year the UN IWD website is sponsored amongst others by the International Finance Company, Scotia Bank and BP. In many countries IWD is a public holiday, but in many places has also lost much of its political flavour, taking on the equivalent status of Mothers’ Day or Valentine’s Day.

Now the real history of IWD is of a day that belongs to socialists and activists within the working class and in movements for change from below. [Read more...]

The making of the Mystique

Marching during the Women's Strike for Equality in 1970

Marching during the Women’s Strike for Equality in 1970

FIFTY YEARS after its publication, The Feminine Mystique has been credited with everything from single-handedly sparking the women’s movement to perpetuating an outdated and long-gone stereotype of the American family.

Neither is true, but many of the issues that Betty Friedan’s book raised–such as the role of women and the nuclear family–make The Feminine Mystique worth looking back at today. [Read more...]

Nothing natural about sexism

A major theme at the Hikoi at Waitangi this year was violence towards women. (Photo: Derwin Smith)

A major theme at the Hikoi at Waitangi this year was violence towards women. (Photo: Derwin Smith)

Marx’s collaborator Engels wrote that “…the first class antagonism which appears in history coincides with the development of the antagonism between man and woman in monogamous marriage, and the first class oppression with that of the female sex by the male.

So women’s oppression existed before the rise of capitalism, but has not always existed. It is not to do with innate differences and inequalities between the sexes, though, nor is it timeless: women’s oppression is a product of class society. To fight for women’s rights today, we need to understand this history. [Read more...]

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