In December last year, LIANZA held a webinar on pay equity and the current claims for school, university and public librarians and assistant librarians. This article is an update from that webinar and an opportunity to hear from some of the people involved in the claim processes.
WHAT IS PAY EQUITY?
Until the Equal Pay Act was enacted in 1972, it was still legal to pay women and men different pay rates for the same work. This is the act that guides the work of pay equity. Fifty years later there is still unequal pay and processes that feed into large gender pay gaps.
In 2013 the Employment Court issued a decision that Kristine Bartlett’s care and support job was underpaid because it was done mainly by women and was a breach of the Equal Pay Act. In 2014 the Court of Appeal upheld the Bartlett decision taken by her union E tū, supported by Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi Public Service Association (PSA) and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, and the Supreme Court dismissed the employer’s appeal.
Amendments to the Equal Pay Act (1972) came into effect on November 6, 2020 and introduced a new process for individual employees and unions to raise a pay equity claim directly with an employer for work, which may be subject to systemic sex-based discrimination.
The Equal Pay Amendment Act allows individual employees and unions to raise a pay equity claim directly with an employer, using a framework that is aligned with New Zealand’s existing bargaining framework[i].
Occupations, where work is predominantly carried out by men, have typically enjoyed better pay and conditions than female-dominated roles with comparable skills and responsibilities. Pay equity is about recognising this inequity and ensuring that these roles are valued fairly.
An historical study of New Zealand libraries (including school libraries and public libraries more generally) shows the librarian workforce to be occupationally segregated on the basis of gender*.
In the 1960s, although women made up the vast majority of the workforce, management roles in librarianship were dominated by men. This vertical segregation possibly resulted from women’s unequal access to promotional and career development opportunities, especially for young married women who were assumed ‘temporary’ until they left employment to have children*. Part-time and term-time employment are commonly found in these roles as seen in payroll data, and this may be attractive to women with caring responsibilities for children. As a result of these features of employment terms, the educational setting school librarians and library assistants are employed in, and the less visible skills they bring to the role, the workforce has likely been impacted by feminisation and occupational segregation. This has possibly limited the remuneration and opportunities for career advancement for employees working in these roles.
From Library and Library Assistants’ Pay Equity Claim Evidence Report (December 2022; p10)
A major part of establishing pay equity claims is gathering information about the day-to-day work of the area of work predominantly carried out by women. Finding male-dominated comparator groups to assess this work against is then needed.
This involves considerable investigation: a work assessment for claimants, identifying comparators, work assessment for comparators, and comparing work and remuneration of claimants and comparators. If the investigation shows that there has been a gender-based undervaluation of the work area, then the claim proceeds to negotiation before it is settled.
Te Tāhuhu o Te Mātauranga The Ministry of Education (MOE) and NZEI Te Riu Roa Pay Equity Claim Report for librarians and library assistants (December 2022)[ii] show the complexity and outcomes of this process for school librarians.
AN UPDATE ON THE PAY EQUITY CLAIMS
The librarian and library assistant pay equity claim for school libraries was investigated by NZEI Te Riu Roa and the Ministry of Education. The parties undertook a thorough, collaborative, and quality-assured process resulting in settlement of the claim in February 2023. For school librarians, there will be an increase of between 10 to 38 percent depending on where people sit on the current pay scale. The new rates will be backdated to November 23, 2022.
Other benefits include a parental payment, as well as work on how these roles are funded, the professional development school librarians need, and research into how these roles can better support schools and kura. The settlement will see around 1,200 school librarians, mostly women, being valued and paid for the work they do in line with people working in male-dominated roles of equal value.
In May 2019 the PSA notified the six large urban councils (Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, Tauranga, Hamilton and Auckland) that they believed library assistants working in local government were experiencing gender-based pay discrimination.
The interview process was established across the range of councils and 23 detailed interviews occurred. These were comprehensive processes taking 3-4 hours for each interview. Using the PSA pay equity assessment tool Te Orowaru, the comparator process to assess the skills across different roles began. The interview material was used to make profiles of three different library assistant roles. These will be ratified by each council staff before being used to start the comparison to male-dominated industries. Once this is done it will be used as evidence for negotiating the claim possibly through a Multi-employer Collective Agreement or MECA process rather than each council.
Recent flooding in Auckland has slowed the process down and it is expected that negotiation will occur later in the year.
University library advisors and assistants are in the early stages of their claim. The claim is multi-employer with all eight universities involved and was raised in September 2022 by a multi-union group consisting of Te Hautū Kahurangi Tertiary Education Union (TEU), the PSA and Tertiary Institutes Allied Staff Association (TIASA). A reference group of library staff from the eight universities worked on identifying the claimant roles to be covered and are now building an understanding of the broad nature of work for these roles across the university sector. Claimants are currently waiting to hear back about the employer group’s determination of arguability of the claim due in April 2023.
This claim sits outside the core public service and will be a test of how the government might support pay equity claims in the funded sector. Once the university pay equity claim has been completed it is expected that it will be used to leverage the pay of related occupations in the polytechnics. However, there are other industrial priorities with Te Pūkenga at the moment, including winning pay parity across the different subsidiaries so all library workers in Te Pūkenga receive the same pay no matter where they are based in the country.
WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING A PAY EQUITY CLAIM REP?
Being part of a pay equity negotiation process is a lengthy and detailed process. Despite the hard work, library representatives involved in these claims have some positive things to say about the process.
Tessa Bowler (Wellington City Libraries) is one of ten library representatives supporting the PSA claim process to the six councils. She says that “Since doing the interviews I feel like we don’t value our skills as librarians enough and if there’s one thing pay parity will do it’s going to show the average library assistant what they actually do and the value they have.”
SLANZA president and negotiator Sasha Eastwood commented, “I believe this settlement to correct historic undervaluation of school librarians is a game changer for our sector with positive impacts that will ripple into the wider library workforce. I am proud of how school librarians have invested their time and mahi into this process. As an interviewer and negotiator, this has been a labour-intensive but very rewarding journey.”
Hannah Jenkin is a subject librarian at Victoria University and is part of the reference group for library assistants working in universities. “I got involved when I was a library assistant – I was really frustrated about what was going on for library assistants. I was working three jobs trying to pay my rent and get by. Two of those jobs were precarious because of the university summer hours, and even when I was working full time I was still under the ‘living wage’. I’m in a different role now but still involved in the claim.
Many of us have postgraduate degrees and our jobs require highly technical skills, so it would be good to have our mahi recognised.”
On behalf of the sector, we thank these courageous and hard-working representatives, the negotiators and interviewees, Te Hautū Kahurangi Tertiary Education Union (TEU), Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi Public Service Association (PSA), and Te Riu Roa NZ Educational Institute (NZEI) for this invaluable mahi. The results will have a profound effect on the sector.
[i] Employment New Zealand (2022) Pay Equity- Guide to Good Practice.https://www.employment.govt.nz/assets/Uploads/tools-and-resources/publications/pay-equity-guide-to-good-practice.pdf
*Millen, Julia. Te Rau Herenga, a century of library life in Aotearoa, 1910-2010. (Wellington, NZ: LIANZA, 2010)
[ii] LIBRARY AND LIBRARY ASSISTANTS' PAY EQUITY CLAIM EVIDENCE REPORT (December 2022) https://assets.education.govt.nz/public/Pay-equity/LPEC/LPEC-Evidence-Report.pdf