The Public Service Association (PSA) claims the Government is “dragging the chain” over agreed pay equity payments for thousands of social workers in community and iwi organisations, a year after promising to pay the workers fairly.
“It’s disappointing that these significant payments boosting the income of this important female dominated workforce continues to languish for so many a year after the announcement,” said PSA Assistant Secretary, Melissa Woolley.
The average full-time worker would see an increase in annual income of $20,000-30,000 under payments which were agreed to be funded by Cabinet in June, and following an announcement by Ministers on 24 November last year. The agreement covered 4,600 social workers.
“We’ve just been informed by the Deputy Chief Executives of Oranga Tamariki and the Ministry of Social Development that the important work of finalising changes to contracts for the various employers so they can pay the higher rates won’t be finalised till 22 December,” said Ms Woolley.
“We understand Te Whatu Ora, the other significant funder of employers of social workers, is also facing delays processing contracts.
“This means thousands of social workers will be waiting well into the New Year before they actually get the extra income into their bank accounts. While some workers are getting paid this side of Christmas, this delay for so many others is just not good enough.
“These social workers have been undervalued for so long and the Government clearly agreed which is why it supported this process to right this wrong. But this latest delay is simply unacceptable for these workers who are, like many New Zealanders, are doing it tough as the rising cost of living squeezes their household budgets.
“We are talking about significant pay increases which will go a long way to not only properly valuing the important work they do, but also help to retain valuable workers and attract more to the profession.”
Sarah Anderson has been working in this area in Dunedin for nearly five years and says the delay is frustrating.
“All of us are under stress from the rising cost of living – my mortgage has gone up $300 a fortnight this year and this payment will make a huge difference to my household budget and so how I can support my whānau. Right now, I can’t plan for Christmas – I’m just in limbo like all my colleagues.”
“I hope the payment comes soon – it will be great for our profession and will finally recognise the important job we do for the whānau who need our help in our community,” she said.
“The PSA calls on Oranga Tamariki, the Ministry of Social Development and Te Whatu Ora to make it a priority to process the changes to contracts of employers so these thousands of social workers can begin receiving their higher pay by Christmas. Please don’t be grinches,” said Ms Woolley.