Mental health workers seek pay equity

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Wellington
Mental health care and support workers are launching a bid to get the pay recognition of their aged and disability care support counterparts.
The PSA and E tu unions today lodged an equal pay claim with the Employment Relations Authority.
From July, 55,000 aged care workers will start receiving significant wage rises over the next five years, costing the Government $2 billion, after decades of low pay The unions want that extended to the mental health sector.
The PSA says workers are leaving in droves.
“We’re calling on Government to fund a settlement that shows they truly value the workers who support our most vulnerable New Zealanders,” PSA national secretary Erin Polaczuk said.
“They’re working on increasingly thin resources despite massive increases in demand, and fair pay is crucial for the integrity of the whole sector going forward.”
This pay claim is potentially worth up to $40 million.
Concerns have been raised mental health support workers are already leaving for the aged, disability and home care support sectors, which recently clinched a funding boost for wages that comes into effect on July 1.
In mid-April, the Government announced the historic $2 billion pay rise for 55,000 care and support workers, which will be paid for from a $1.8 billion boost in Vote Health funding and from an extra $192 million in Accident Compensation Corporation funding, phased in over five years.
The PSA and E tu announced today they had lodged an equal pay claim on behalf of mental health support workers.
E tu assistant national secretary John Ryall said when contacted the pay claim covered between 4000 and 5000 mental health support workers and estimated it could in total cost $30m to $40m.
Mr Ryall said the government needed to support the claim and move swiftly “to avert the impending crisis”.
“We’re seeking urgency from the (Employment Relations) Authority in hearing this claim, because the July 1 pay increases for other support workers will cause a crisis for the community mental health workforce,” he said.
E tu member and claimant Vicki Harmon said from July 1 mental health support workers would be working alongside people who will be paid more, which was “causing turmoil”.
“People are leaving mental health services in droves, and who wouldn’t?” Ms Harmon said.
“We’ve had so many people leave our organisation for other disability providers. We’re exhausted doing the extra work.
“It’s a struggle to fill the rosters and everyone is knackered,” she said in a statement.
PSA claimant and mental health committee member Pollyanna Alo said the mental health support workers are not included in the aged and disability care wage deal “and will get nothing”.
“It’s completely unfair that mental health support workers receive unequal pay and are undervalued just because we work in a traditionally female-dominated industry,” she said.
Ms Polaczuk was calling on the Government to fund a settlement which showed it truly valued the mental health workers who supported the most vulnerable New Zealanders. NZN-Otago Daily Times

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