Aged care worker Kristine Bartlett had her efforts in fighting for equal pay recognised at the New Zealander of the Year awards, taking home the supreme award.

Kristine was instrumental in bringing the initial equal pay case against her employer TerraNova. After proceeding through the courts, the case eventually resulted in last year’s Care and Support Worker Pay Equity Settlement. As a result, caregivers around the country have received a significant boost to their pay.

TerraNova Executive Director Terry Bell says he is personally delighted for Kristine.

“Stepping back a bit, her award clearly shows the broader importance the New Zealand community place on addressing ‘fair-play’ in both Pay Equity and Residential Age Care services. Regrettably both issues still have a very long way to travel before they will be resolved to the satisfaction of most New Zealanders.”

New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) chief executive Simon Wallace also congratulates Kristine on her accolade, describing it as “recognition of her long advocacy in support of caregivers in the aged residential care industry”.

“Whilst we haven’t always been on the same side of the argument, we support the drive for fairer pay,” says Wallace.

When presenting the New Zealander of the Year award Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described Kristine as an “absolute hero”.

Union E tū agrees and is thrilled for their “equal pay hero”.

Yvette Taylor, E tū Equal Pay Coordinator described Kristine as a trail-blazer for working women everywhere.

“Kristine picked up the fight for equal pay on behalf of her workmates and she’s travelled this road for many years, helping win pay equity principles through the courts and seeing that through to an historic settlement for care and support workers.

“It is rare for a working woman like Kristine, paid near-minimum wage, to take the national stage, capture the national imagination and go on to achieve this prestigious title.”

Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter also congratulated Kristine, but acknowledged that there is still some way to go before New Zealand’s gender pay gap is fully addressed.

Health Minister David Clark recently announced the government’s intentions to extend pay equity to mental health support workers.

Other sectors are also pushing for equal pay – among them the education sector. Teachers’ union NZEI Te Riu Roa is leading claims for education support workers, teacher aides and early childhood education staff.

NZEI pay equity leader Karen O’Leary says she hopes Kristine’s win bodes well for the education sector and others seeking pay justice.

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