Samoan woman challenges P.M. Ardern on pay gap

By James Robertson 24 November 2020, 2:00PM

A Court Reporter for New Zealand's Ministry of Justice, Jennifer Laulala, has pleaded with that country's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to take real action to close the gender pay gap. 

The mother-of-two asked Ms. Ardern to "put action behind her priorities" during a conference for the Public Service Association (P.S.A.) union in Wellington where the Prime Minister was present last week. 

Laulala has been with the Ministry of Justice at the Manukau District Court for more than a decade and said she has had enough of being at the bottom of the bottom paid group in the public service.

Statistics show that Pasifika women in the public services are making on average NZ$64,600 in 2019. European men, by contrast, make an average of NZ$91,400. 

During her plea for a level playing field for Maori and Pasifika women, Laulala said she often wonders why a gender pay gap still exists. 

"I wake up every morning [thinking]: why?," Laulala said in a challenge to Ms. Adern.

"Is the colour of my skin [the reason] that I've been forgotten? Pasifika and Maori are at the bottom of the pay-scale. [Change is] overdue."

She also said that she'd written to the Ministry's chief executive "time and time again" requesting he not ignore the plight of the underpaid. 

"I said: 'Do not forget Pasifika women are at the bottom of the pay scale',” she said. 

According to the Ministry of Justice's Pay Gap Action Plan released in February, a gap of 12.1 per cent was revealed. This decreased from 18.3 per cent in 2015.

 In response, the Prime Minister said the Government is aware of the pay gap in the Ministry and admitted that there is "no justification at all" for its persistence. 

"There is nothing defensible about a pay gap, a gender pay gap, a pay gap that's demonstrably clear around ethnicity," she said.

While Ms. Adern said the Government are prioritising pay inequity in the public service as a most important priority, she did not offer any definite timeline for new pay settlements. 

In the previous term, the Government passed a new Pay Equity Law with a focus on gender equity. The bill allowed workers to make a pay equity claim without going to court.

By James Robertson 24 November 2020, 2:00PM

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