Pay talks kick off for mental health sector
The Government is set to enter into negotiations with unions over pay equity for mental health support workers.
Health Minister David Clark said about 3800 workers would be in line for a pay increase, as the Government works to bring their pay into line with pay equity standards.
There is expected to be a big bill at the end of the talks and Clark confirmed the Government had a ‘‘ballpark figure’’ in mind, however he would not pre-empt what would likely be a announcement in May.
Clark met with unions and employers this week to confirm the Government had agreed to negotiate on fairer pay.
‘‘Today, we are correcting a problem created by the previous Government, which failed to make the settlement broad enough to include mental health and addiction workers.
‘‘We are doing the right thing by these workers,’’ said Clark.
Budget The previous National Government had introduced pay equity legislation for aged care workers, following a court case brought by unions and care worker Christine Bartlett.
The previous National Government promised more than $1 billion to rectify inequities in that industry and worked to establish a framework to deal with future grievances, but it ruled out including mental health workers in the original settlement saying it was too expensive.
Clark said people should be paid what they deserve.
‘‘Paying our mental health and addiction workers what they deserve will also help ensure we have a robust workforce to look after people needing their care.’’
The Ministry of Health is set to begin formal negotiations with unions and employers.
‘‘It is in everyone’s interests to ensure these vital workers are paid fairly for the important work they do in our communities,’’ said Clark.
Minister for Women Julie Anne Genter said the announcement was part of a long journey.
‘‘A woman shouldn’t be paid less just because she is working in a female-dominated industry,’’ she said. ‘‘This announced settlement today is much needed for a sector that has been in dire straits and struggling to retain staff.’’
The Council of Trade Unions president Richard Wagstaff said he looked forward to ‘‘fruitful’’ negotiations.
‘‘Unions expect these negotiations to occur with urgency, to extend the full terms of the care and support settlement to people working in mental health and addiction support.
‘‘This proves to them that the work they do is valued – and so are the vulnerable people who they support every day.’’