Kristine Bartlett, who took on the rest home where she is employed, alleging she is underpaid because she is in a female-dominated industry, and won has struck blow against low pay for women.
Kristine Bartlett and her union SFWU won an historic case last week when they went to the Employment Court and challenged, under the forty-year-old Equal Pay Act, that if it was mostly men doing the job she and her colleagues did then the pay would be very different.
The workers at Kristine Bartlett’s rest home are paid $14.32 an hour. In the state sector residential care workers doing similar work can earn $19.50 an hour.
The law had never been tested before in this manner. The decision means the law now allows the court to examine the provisions of any collective agreement to determine whether it complies with the provisions of the Equal Pay Act. If the provisions do not comply the court can either refer the agreement back to the parties for further consideration or it can rewrite the terms of the agreement itself in a way that reflects the principles of equal pay.
The decision has implications for many jobs that are dominated by women employees, especially low-paid ones. Unions are working together to assess where else the new case law will apply.
CTU President Helen Kelly says “this result is a huge step forward for the rights of working women. Caregivers and other low-paid women workers will celebrate this finding. This finding shows that for far too long ‘women’s work’ has been under-valued and underpaid.”
“Kristine Bartlett has worked as a caregiver for 20 years. She, like thousands of other carers is earning close to the minimum wage and this finding shows that her pay rate of $14.32 an hour is based on her gender rather than her skills, effort and responsibility,” said Helen Kelly.