Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Government urged to pass law for pay transparency in Aotearoa New Zealand

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Photo: RNZ / Craig McCulloch
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Gladys Hartson | Senior Journalist

Human Rights Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo says her open letter to the government is about creating a better society for all.

Speaking in an online panel discussion on Wednesday, Saunoamaali’i outlined that the purpose of the letter was to push for a law which encourages greater pay transparency.

“The purpose is to have no hungry children, to have nobody homeless in Aotearoa New Zealand, to achieve equal employment opportunities for everybody…that is a right that belongs to everybody to have an adequate standard of living for every single person including our children and fairness and decency.

“That is the ultimate vision and pay transparency is one of the key mechanisms that we would like the government to act on in this term,” she says.

The commissioner urged the government to act now: “Don’t leave it again, people have been waiting for generations for equality and equity and freedom from discrimination.”

Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner at the New Zealand Human Rights Commission. Photo: Supplied

Saunoamaali’i says communities, unions and businesses have been calling for change and the issue cannot be left to others to solve. She adds everyone has a role to play.

Employers such as K’aute Pasifika, Centre for Pacific Languages, Tōfa Mamao Collective and Tongan Society South Canterbury are among more than 50 employers from unions, small business, private and public companies who have already signed the Open letter supporting the campaign.

Saunoamaali’i is pleased to see there are already employers who have begun to report on their ethnic and gender pay gaps and are taking action to close these.

She has been at the forefront of the Pacific Pay Gap Inquiry that looked into why a Pacific Pay Gap exists and what needs to be done to address the issues.

As part of the Pacific Pay Gap campaign, the Inquiry found that in 2021 for every dollar earned by a Pākehā man, Pākehā women were paid just 89 cents. For Māori men that drops to 86 cents and for Māori women 81 cents. For our Pacific whānau, men were paid just 81 cents and Pacific women only 75 cents.

Photo: Pacific Pay Gap Inquiry report

The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions agree that action on pay transparency cannot wait. Komiti Pasefika Co-Convenor Caroline Mareko says the move would help to level the playing field.

“Pacific people have faced barriers in employment for decades. Komiti Pasefika wants measures put in place to ensure the pay gaps for Pacific people are closed in less than 20 years, not 120 years.”

A guest panellist Fuimaono Jennifer Laulala – Pacific delegate, from the Public Service Association – says the research has been done, and the outcomes are clear.

“We have been working on this for far too long. There’s no future without change and change starts not just with officials it starts with us all. We need to talk about this and start the conversation at the dinner table.”

There are hundreds more signatures that continue to be collected since the Open Letter was launched on Wednesday afternoon.

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