A historic pay equity deal will deliver a huge boost to Christchurch care worker Jenny Goodman’s meagre hourly rate.
Despite 18 years of experience, the 64-year-old earns between $15.75 and $15.97 an hour caring for elderly people in their homes.
She works for one of the largest home support providers in Christchurch, providing personal or household care for clients.
“I started working in 1999 on $8.50 an hour . . . and in 17 years my wages hadn’t even doubled.”
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Under the pay equity settlement announced on Tuesday, Goodman’s wage will increase by 50 per cent from July 1.
The delegate for the Public Service Association said the settlement was “a long time coming” and “a monumental step forward for social justice in New Zealand”.
With her husband on the pension, Goodman is the sole earner and is battling to pay off her mortgage.
Living on the minimum wage was a “hand to mouth existence”, she said.
The couple had foregone health and life insurance as it was simply unaffordable.
Goodman said the extra pay would enable her to save more for her retirement.
“This is marvellous because it means I can work for longer, I could cut my hours but still earn the same.”
Caring for others came naturally to women, but that was no reason to pay them less, she said.
“It’s the unpaid reward that the Government has exploited. We wouldn’t do it if we didn’t care.”
She said her elderly clients were “national treasures” who should be looked after well.
An improved wage would help attract more carers and ensure there was someone to look after her in her old age, Goodman said.
Nurse Maude chief executive Jim Magee said he supported the settlement.
“We believe the contribution of this portion of the health workforce has not been properly recognised in the past and we warmly welcome this improvement.”
The organisation’s 500 support workers in Canterbury played an important role in helping elderly people stay safely at home and better remuneration would make it easier to recruit, retain and maintain the skills of people “of the right calibre”, Magee said.