INsite has a frank discussion with a community support worker about what the pay equity settlement agreement means to her and how its implementation has played out from her perspective.
Tamara Baddeley is eagerly anticipating her next pay cheque.
“I’ll be getting my first full pay at the new rate this fortnight and I can’t wait!” she says.
As a community support worker for 17 years, her experience and her Level 3 qualification will see her wage soar to $23.50 an hour – “a hell of a better rate than I was expecting”.
It’s been a long time coming.
“We’ve been battling this out in the courts for five years, but it’s been 45 years since the Equal Pay Act has been around,” she says.
Baddeley’s pay rise will have a significant impact on her life.
It will mean that she may be able to give up one day of work a week, or possibly give up some evening clients so she can have some quality time with family and friends.
As things stand, Baddeley works six days a week, starting at 7am each day and finishing at 9.30pm four of those days.
“It would be nice to see my daughter and my cat a bit more,” she says. “It will also mean that I may even be able to start saving; something I have battled to do for years on our low pay.”
However, Baddeley is concerned that employers won’t keep up their side of the bargain.
“I’ve been told by one of my employers that just because you’re on this new pay rate, don’t expect that you’ll have the same number of hours.”
She says her employer tried to tell her she wouldn’t be eligible for the top rate of $23.50 because she only held a Level 3 qualification, and not a Level 4.
“But it’s all there in black and white,” says Baddeley, who is concerned that other caregivers may not get what they are now legally entitled to.
She says there is talk of clients’ care plans being reassessed and care times being cut. Baddeley says it has already happened to a workmate of hers.
“The quality of care is going to diminish,” she says simply.
Baddeley is very concerned that home and community support services (HCSS) in New Zealand will start to copy practices that have started happening in some parts of England, in which full care packages are delivered in just 15 minutes.
She says it is unrealistic to expect support workers to deliver personal cares in less than 30 minutes, and ideally 45-60 minutes is required. Baddeley says the attitudes of many employers are disheartening.
“Employers are saying to us: ‘you’re lucky you’re getting this’.”
Ultimately, Baddeley sees the settlement as a big step forward, not just for care and support workers but for other low-paid vocations.
“It finally recognises the skills and responsibilities we have, and acknowledges that it is a physically, mentally and emotionally tough job, that has been un-appreciated by many for too long. The clients and their families appreciate everything we do, but that is only a small portion of the population.
“We must not forget other low-paid occupations but support and encourage them to file similar cases, and be prepared to fight for what they believe is right for them.”