Pay talks kick off for men­tal health sec­tor

Nelson Mail - - NEWS - STACEY KIRK

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.

Court case

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.

Long jour­ney

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.’’

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