20 December 2021 -
As 2021 comes to a close, this is what is happening:
- The Cabinet paper: The release in November of the Cabinet paper, Pay Equity for the Funded Sector, was a significant milestone, which we believe will improve how future pay equity claims in our sector will be managed. As the current claim is well-advanced, we are working with Oranga Tamariki and the Public Service Commission Te Kawa Mataaho to look at how we can adapt some of the new processes as we progress the current claim. You can read the Cabinet Paper here.
- Separation of claims: Since the current claim against five representative employers was lodged in 2019, we have been working for the settlement to be extended, to provide a wider solution to pay inequity in the social services sector. However, following the release in November of the Cabinet paper outlining the Government’s process for future pay equity claims in the funded sector, officials have advised us how the current claim and a wider sector solution will be handled, in line with the decisions that Cabinet has made. Planning for a wider sector solution will happen in parallel with completing the current claim, but the current claim must be settled first. We are confident that the settlement of the current claim will be quickly followed by a wider sector solution, and this remains SSPA’s a central to SSPA’s focus, advocating for the wider sector.
- The current claim: The five employers in the current claim are in pre-bargaining discussions with the PSA and will begin formal bargaining next year. The timing of bargaining depends on further Cabinet decisions regarding contingency funding for the costs of settlement. Once bargaining begins there will be legal restrictions on how much information we can share. However, we will set up a small reference group of employers outside the claim, so that the bargaining team can draw on wider perspectives, recognising that the settlement of the current claim will be the basis for a subsequent wider sector solution.
- The wider sector solution: The process ahead will centre on testing whether the work assessment done for the workers in the claim accurately captures the work of people doing social work in other organisations. This investigation will be a separate but parallel process led by the Public Service Commission Te Kawa Mataaho, working closely with SSPA, the PSA and others. Government officials will be gathering information, consulting with the sector, and making recommendations to Ministers. We will be urging government to agree to extend the benefits of a settlement as soon as possible after the claim is settled. SSPA, as the key peak body, will continue to take a lead role in advocating for the sector and providing guidance and advice. We will be working closely with officials and with the PSA to support the best possible outcome for the sector as a whole.
- The scope of the claim: The current claim applies to ‘workers performing social work, however their position is titled and whether registerable or not’. The Equal Pay Act 1972 S13W(1) refers to a claim also applying to employees that ‘perform work that is the same as, or substantially similar to, the work to which the claim relates’. To help define which roles are in scope, we have now completed additional assessments for roles that are not labelled or described as “social workers” but may be within the scope of the claim.
- Next steps: The first half of next year is going to be critical. We will be completing an extensive modelling exercise to determine the costs of settling the current claim, as well as implementation costs. We will also be seeking sign-off on the bargaining strategy for the current claim and entering into settlement negotiations - working hard to reach the best possible settlement as soon as we can. We have already begun pre-bargaining discussions with the PSA. Work will be happening in parallel to investigate and advise ministers on any extending the benefits of a settlement to others in the sector.
The process to reach this point has involved a tremendous amount of effort by many, and we would like to acknowledge the progress that has been made. This has included completing work assessments and validating that community social workers do comparable work with other social workers; assessing the size of the pay equity gap; developing our bargaining strategy; pre-bargaining talks; contributing to the Cabinet paper; and sector engagement and advocacy. In particular, we want to acknowledge the huge commitment of time and energy by the CEOs of the five providers in the claim: Barnardos, Christchurch Methodist Mission, Ngāpuhi Iwi Social Services, Stand Tū Maia and Wellington Sexual Abuse Help.
None of this work would be possible without the ongoing commitment and support of the SSPA National Executive and the SSPA national office team.
We also acknowledge the constructive engagement we have had with the PSA and with government officials, especially those from Oranga Tamariki and the Public Service Commission Te Kawa Mataaho.
Over two years on from the claim being lodged, we remain committed to working as a united sector to achieve the best possible outcomes for all people in social work roles across our community-based social sector. We will continue to keep you updated on progress over the first half of 2022.
In the meantime, please share this update with other members of your leadership team or peers who may not yet be on our mailing list. And please encourage any social services provider Chief Executives/organisation leaders who are not on our mailing list to sign up via the form on our website at sspa.org.nz/pay-equity.
Nāku māua noa, nā
SSPA Pay equity co-ordinator
Dr Claire Achmad
Chief Executive, Social Service Providers Aotearoa
30 November 2021 - We continue to work at pay equity for NGO and Iwi social workers and provide this update as of November 2021. Please feel free to share it with anyone who may be interested, and to get in touch if you have further questions. We are committed to working as a united sector to achieve the best possible outcomes for all.
This is what has been happening since we last provided an update:
- The bargaining strategy: We have made good progress in developing our bargaining strategy for the five employers in the current claim. Before bargaining can begin, the Public Service Commission (PSC) needs to confirm that our bargaining strategy is reasonable and has met the legislative requirements for pay equity negotiations. This includes providing information about the scope of the claim, what it would take to correct the pay equity gap, and an implementation plan. While the bargaining strategy applies to the five employers in the current claim, it is being written with the extension to a wider-sector solution in mind.
- Timetable: We are starting to plan the bargaining with the PSA for the current claim. We will be meeting soon to set out a timetable for bargaining. We are having some pre-bargaining discussions to share our thinking on a number of topics. The first of these sessions is on 7 December and will look at how we might structure a remuneration framework reflecting pay equity. We expect the formal bargaining to begin shortly after the bargaining strategy is confirmed.
- The scope of the claim. The current claim applies to ‘workers performing social work, however their position is titled and whether registerable or not’. The Equal Pay Act 1972 S13W(1) refers to a claim also applying to employees that ‘perform work that is the same as, or substantially similar to, the work to which the claim relates’. Further discussion is needed to define which roles are within this scope. We have provided a discussion paper to Oranga Tamariki and the PSC, and we are meeting shortly to discuss this with them. We are also doing some additional role assessments for roles that are not primarily filled by social workers but may be within the scope of the claim. This includes looking at what the roles involve and the skills required, to assess the degree to which they are the same as or substantially similar to the role of social workers.
- The wider sector solution: Further work is required to look at how any settlement for the five representative employers could be extended to the wider community social services sector, including how a settlement could be implemented and who could be eligible. This will be the subject of ongoing conversations with the government and is likely to be coordinated by the PSC. We will keep you informed about this important matter.
- Cabinet paper - The Government released a Cabinet paper on 8 November 2021 outlining how it plans to manage future pay equity claims in the ‘funded sector’. The paper will not significantly impact the process that is already well advanced for the current claim, but it may be helpful for the wider sector solution. We are approaching the proposed changes with cautious optimism. You can read the Cabinet Paper at https://www.publicservice.govt.nz/assets/SSC-Site-Assets/Proactive-Releases/Joint-Report-Pay-Equity-in-the-Funded-Sector.pdf
We will continue to keep working on this project and keep the sector updated on progress over the next few months. In the meantime, please share this information with other members of your leadership team or peers who may be interested in this information. And please encourage any social services provider Chief Executives who are not on our mailing list to sign up via the form on our website at sspa.org.nz/pay-equity.
SSPA Pay equity co-ordinator
Dr Claire Achmad
Chief Executive, Social Service Providers Aotearoa
Background: Key information about the pay equity claim process so far
- In 2019, the PSA lodged a pay equity claim against five employers of social workers: Barnardos, Christchurch Methodist Mission, Ngāpuhi Iwi Social Services, Stand Tū Maia and Wellington Sexual Abuse Help.
- The claim was triggered by the 2018 settlement of the Oranga Tamariki pay equity claim. This has widened the pay gap between Government and community social workers and others who support the delivery of social services.
- A complex review and bargaining process is progressing. We have completed much of the groundwork, including validating that community social workers do comparable work with other social workers and assessing the size of the pay equity gap. We are now finalising our bargaining strategy, the final step before we begin bargaining for the current claim.
- We are raising the need for full and fair funding of government-funded services as a separate but related issue alongside the claim settlement process.
- The PSA, SSPA and the five employers in the claim agree it is vital that any settlement of this claim be extended to all community social workers. It is therefore seen as a representative claim on behalf of the whole sector.
- It is expected that a sector-wide solution will need to be agreed with the Government in order for pay equity to be addressed for all community social workers. Any such solution is likely to be implemented through the contracting process with funders, with related funding to flow via the employers through to employees via employment contracts.