Kristine Bartlett – a hero

In April 2017 the National government announced a massive pay rise for workers in the aged-care sector: two billion dollars over five years; 55,000 staff receiving a pay rise between 15 and 49 per cent; many will move from the minimum wage to a rate between $19 and $27 an hour. Socialists and trade unions rejoice that these workers, the majority of whom are women, are paid a better wage for the work they do. These are the workers whose skills and efforts are used to improve the mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing of people in their last years.


The government did not do this because it was the right thing to do. They were backed into a corner through the courageous struggle of aged-care worker Kristine Bartlett and the Service and Food Workers Union (now E tū). In 2012 Kristine Bartlett stood up for her rights and took Terranova Homes to the Employment Court on the grounds that they were in breach of the Equal Pay Act of 1972. Specifically, her case rested on section 3 (1) [b]. This section states that workers in female-dominated industries should be paid at the same rate “that would be paid to male employees with the same, or substantially similar, skills, responsibility, and service performing the work under the same, or substantially similar, conditions and with the same, or substantially similar, degrees of effort.” Bartlett argued that workers in the female-dominated aged-care sector were paid a depressed rate compared to workers doing similar work in male-dominated industries. This differentiation, Kristine Bartlett claimed, was illegal.

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