Pay equity bill on ice

John Key
John Key
A Green Party pay equity bill has as much chance of being considered as Happy Feet the penguin has of a holiday in Honolulu, Prime Minister John Key said today.

However, that was not because National wouldn't consider the bill unless hell froze over - Mr Key said it was because members' bills aren't making progress due to Labour Party stalling progress of an ACT bill making membership, and therefore fees, for student associations voluntary.

Green MP Catherine Delahunty pressed Mr Key in Parliament today to support her Equal Pay Amendment Bill, which would require employers to gather and release aggregated information on gender pay to employees on request.

"I say to the member that there is probably more chance of Happy Feet having a holiday in Honolulu than there is of her bill ever being drawn, because the Labour Party is filibustering its entire parliamentary time to stop the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill,'' Mr Key said.

Happy Feet sparked international interest when he came ashore north of Wellington two weeks ago, more than 3000 kilometres from his Antarctic birth place.

Members' bills are drawn at random from a ballot to be considered on every second Wednesday Parliament is sitting. That means it could take days or years to be drawn and tabled before Parliament for debating and will only be considered when those before it on the list are dealt with.

National MPs blocked any chance of speeding up the process - when Ms Delahunty sought to have the bill introduced by leave of the House, they said no.

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor has proposed a similar bill. Under her Pay Equality Bill employers would record any pay differences between men and women workers and employees who discovered they were being paid less could then complain to a Labour Department inspector who could take action.

Ms Delahunty said legal avenues for women who were not being the same as men for identical work were limited.

"How can a woman take a successful case under the Equal Pay Act without information about rates of pay by gender in her workplace?''

She gave the example of the Bank of New Zealand refusing to release salary data so gender comparisons could be made.

Mr Key said privacy reasons prevented workers, regardless of gender, finding out why someone earned more than they did.

He said while there was a 10.6 percent gender pay gap it was the third-lowest in the OECD.

Labour's Carol Beaumont pointed out there was a 27.5 percent gender pay gap in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet as of June last year.

Mr Key said that he would look at that.

"The issue there may be, as it is in a lot of workplaces, that because different people are doing different jobs.''

Pay equity has been a hot topic after a row over comments by Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) Northern chief executive Alasdair Thompson that woman got paid less partly because of time they took off because of monthly periods.

His future with the organisation is under discussion by the EMA board.

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