Unions join Mana Wahine Claim

Tribunal finding could force the government to widen its consideration of pay equity.

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Unions join Mana Wahine Claim

Te Rūnanga o Ngā Kaimahi Māori o Aotearoa and Te Rūnanga o Ngā Toa Āwhina – the rūnanga of the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) and Public Service Association (PSA) respectively – are preparing to join the Mana Wahine Claim as principal claimants in the Waitangi Tribunal.

The decision comes as strike action across the union movement tests the relationship between the new government and its base.

Lawyer Tania Te Whenua told the PSA’s Working Life the decision to join the claim was made to “protect wāhine Māori workers from inequities in employment.”

Pākehā women earn between $3 and $6 more per hour than Māori, Pasifika and Asian women. The unemployment rate for Māori is double the national rate and more than double again for Māori under 25 and Māori women.

The Mana Wahine claim argues these disparities are the outcome of Crown actions and omissions with Te Whenua citing funding for early childhood education centres as example of how the Crown treats Māori differently from non-Māori.

“Mainstream early childhood education centres receive a 20-hour funding subsidy up to $12.01 per hour per fulltime enrolment. [Kōhanga Reo] receive only $8.76.”

Māori women make up a disproportionate part of the Kōhanga Reo workforce.

The Tribunal is expected to find discrimination against Māori women – deliberate or otherwise – constitutes a breach of the Treaty of Waitangi, a finding that could force the government to widen its consideration of pay equity.

The Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles, convened under the last government and reconvened under the new government, included one Māori woman, Traci Houpapa, as facilitator, but as CEO of the Federation of Māori Authorities Ms. Houpapa is an advocate for Māori business rather than Māori workers.

“[The claim] presents a massive opportunity to influence change,” said Te Whenua.

The Tribunal held its first hearings on March 13 and the process is ongoing. The Tribunal’s report is expected next year.  

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