Launch Pay and Employment Equity Unit

  • Ruth Dyson

Associate Labour Minister Ruth Dyson
Launch of Pay and Employment Equity Unit
Dept of Labour, Level 1, 85 the Terrace, Wellington
5.30pm, Thursday, 16 December 2004

Rau rangatira maa,
tenei te mihi ki a koutou i runga i te kaupapa o te ra.
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

[Distinguished guests, greetings to you gathered here for this purpose today. Greetings once, twice, three times to you all.]

Good evening and welcome. Thank you for coming to help launch the Pay and Employment Equity Unit and hear about developments in implementing the plan of action.

·Philippa Hall: Pay and Employment Equity Unit;
·Penny Carnaby, National Library;
·James Buwalda: Dept of Labour;
·public sector employers and unions, and other groups with an interest in pay and employment equity issues.

In May, I was proud to announce the government’s response to the taskforce report on pay and employment equity in the public service and public health and education sectors.

Our commitment is clear. We agreed that tools would be developed to help assess pay and employment equity, and a unit would be set up to oversee implementation of the action plan. Our approach is to use existing processes such as collective bargaining and accountability mechanisms to implement the plan.

Now it’s time to report on what has been achieved so far.

Audit tool
Work is underway on the audit tool and will soon start on the gender-neutral job evaluation tool. These two tools, highly recommended by the taskforce, are part of the groundwork necessary to enable organisations to assess both how well they are doing and how they might ensure equitable outcomes for employees in the future.

Three sites have been chosen to pilot the audit tool - the National Library, Hutt District Health Board and Auckland University of Technology – and I look forward to hearing Penny Carnaby talk about the library’s participation shortly.
By next April, we will be able to see how we might refine the audit process and what outcomes can be achieved using the tool, including a response plan negotiated by unions and employers. Case studies will be produced on the pilots, and guidelines will be published.

The audits provide a real opportunity for organisations to gather and analyse information. Joint union and management audit committees will ensure that the full range of knowledge, issues and experience can be brought to the table, in efforts to find practical and creative solutions.

Joint ownership of the audit process and development of responses to the audit reports are essential. The audits will provide a systematic way of investigating and documenting areas of success as well as those where further progress is needed.

Real benefits reported by Canadian companies that have carried out pay equity audits include greater fairness, better employment relations and an improved working environment. Organisations work better when it’s clear that people are treated fairly and their needs are taken into account.

A better understanding of what drives recruitment and retention, what affects those at different levels and types of jobs, and how people’s leave patterns and working arrangements help organisations, will help them build their capability and capacity.
Canadian employers also said they gained a better understanding of what employees do, and benefited from better job descriptions and updated pay practices.

More transparency in remuneration and employment arrangements allows existing assumptions to be questioned and revised if need be. Employee morale improves where people are confident that remuneration is clear and fair. Of course, the reverse is also true!

New Zealand has a great deal to gain from improving pay and employment equity. Labour supply, skill levels and retention improve when the price of labour is properly related to the value of work. Having broader recruitment pools unaffected by gender can upgrade workforce quality and productivity.

We are looking forward to the report on the pilot audit process, the responses that workplaces identify, and any proposals about further pay investigations.

If approved investigations demonstrate a need for a remedial pay settlement, funding will be considered alongside the government’s other spending priorities.

Addressing pay and employment equity may take more than five years, since these are often very complex matters. What really matters is achieving significant and sustainable improvement.
The government has continued to lead the implementation of our plan of action, in particular through the Ministerial Reference Group.

As Philippa has said, we have approved an annual allocation of $1 million, along with the criteria and guidelines for a contestable fund for employers and unions to support education and training for participants in audit committees; data collection and analysis; communication; consultation and other capacity-building work. This money will be available early next year.

Responsibilities for implementing the plan of action will be included in each department’s statement of intent and accountability documents in health and education.

The State Services Commissioner, Director-General of Health and Secretary of Education will hold chief executives in their sectors accountable for the progressive implementation of the plan.

The tripartite steering group, chaired by Joanna Beresford, has developed a cooperative and positive approach to working through the many complex issues, and will continue to advise on the ongoing development and implementation of the plan.

As Philippa has outlined, she and the six members of her team at the Pay and Employment Equity Unit are now on board, and I look forward to working with them to make progress in this important area.

Pay and employment equity are important to this government. We know New Zealanders value fairness and equity. We recognise that these are rights-based issues as well as bringing economic and social benefits – such as greater economic independence for women, higher life time earnings, better retirement income, and paying off student loans earlier.

We recognise that the unit can’t and shouldn’t be expected to tackle all the issues alone. Wider work - such as the review of the minimum wage, improvements to childcare provision to assist women’s participation in employment, productivity, decent work, and improving work/life balance - will benefit from, and contribute to, efforts to address pay and employment equity. By integrating the approaches, and coming from many angles, we can get better results.

Pay and employment equity contribute to increasing economic growth, greater equality and improved social and economic well-being of New Zealanders and their families.

I am very pleased to be able to report that we are taking real steps to achieve our commitments, and thank you for your ongoing support and involvement.