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Pay Equity Rally

category aotearoa / pacific islands | gender | news report author Wednesday July 01, 2009 14:46author by Barrie - AWSM (private capacity) Report this post to the editors

On the 30th of June over 300 unionists and supporters braved cold conditions to rally outside parliament in Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand in support of pay equity for women.

On the 30th of June over 300 unionists and supporters braved cold conditions to rally outside parliament in Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand in support of pay equity for women. Their banners and placards showed representation at the protest by Nurses, Railworkers, teaching support staff, fast food workers, public sector employees and others.

Despite being the first country to give women the vote and decades of subsequent legislation, women here as elsewhere around the world, continue to find themselves behind men in their socio-economic conditions. One sign of this, is official statistics showing that on average women in this country earn 12% less than men. Many women work in sectors characterised by precarious employment conditions, move in and out of the workorce to a greater degree than men and perform a lot of valuable unpaid work such as raising children. The raw figures therefore understate the extent to which their labour is undervalued both in real terms and pure capitalistic economic measurements.

The centre-right National Party government has shown itself at a loss in dealing with the current economic recession. It has done little beyond a 'jobs summit' stunt to share ideas amongst employers and has recently expressed the intention of forcing unemployed beneficiaries into training with Mc Donalds fast foods stores. It has also announced the abolition of the pay equity unit of the Ministry of Labour and the loss of jobs in the Ministry for Social Development. These combined measures strongly indicate that women can expect no improvement in conditions any time soon either in terms of economic change or the nature of governmental frameworks. While attendees at the rally listened to parliamentarians from the now opposition Greens and Labour Party, there is scant reason to put their hopes in these parties as saviours. During 9 years in office during the 1990s-2000's Labour did nothing beyond modifying the worst excesses of previous neo-liberal governments (including Labour administrations in the 1980's which put into place vicious privatisation measures that established the present elite economic consensus) while continuing to push similar overall policies itself.

The path out of inequality for women, (not just on the issue of pay equity), lies not in investing their hopes in tired schemes of voting for one government or another. A better option in the longer term lies in empowering themselves by working with each other and other sections of the working class in their communities and workplaces, to change the entire system that creates formal economic inequality in the first place. This will not solve all their problems, but it has to be a key component in any struggle for women to be truly free.

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