NZNO made an oral submission to the Education and Workforce Committee on 6 March 2019 on the Equal Pay Amendment Bill 2018. Katrina was part of our delegation. This is her speech.
My name is Katrina Hopkinson. I’m a registered nurse at the post anaesthetic care unit, commonly called ‘Recovery’, a critical care unit, in a tertiary level hospital here in the capital city.
I have 12 years nursing experience, a Bachelor of Nursing degree, a post graduate Diploma in Nursing and a post graduate Certificate in Occupational Health. I am an NZNO delegate and health and safety representative.
Nurses are highly qualified with advanced interpersonal, assessment and technical knowledge and skill. Our work carried great professional responsibility and personal risk. The risk of error has potentially serious adverse consequences for public safety. Our work is classed as highly stressful and at time repugnant.
Nursing is mentally, physically, emotionally and frequently ethically demanding. We are really good at it but we know we are being unfairly remunerated to reflect the true scope of practice, professional skill and responsibility demanded of us daily. To cite nursing as ‘woman’s work’ or ‘caring’ fails to recognise the true nature of nursing in 2019.
I am hoping the DHB MECA Pay Equity process is going to close the gender-based pay gap once and for all on 31 December 2019 because, currently, nurses struggle to participate fully in society. We do extra shifts to make ends meet, keeping us away from our family and friends. Our remuneration is clearly less than that of comparable occupations but we pay the same price for groceries, petrol, child care and interest rates. It is grossly unfair.
In our unit of 42 staff just a quarter own their own home. A third can afford dental check-ups and, in the event of a natural disaster, about a quarter could walk home from work. We can’t afford to live in the communities we work in, and the local bank has told us to leave the profession if we ever want to own a home in Wellington. The bank algorithms say we don’t earn enough. There is an incongruence between our financial and professional status.
No one ever thought they’d get rich nursing, but we thought we’d be able to secure warm dry housing and dental care. Nurses are voting with their feet, leaving for Australia where our skills are sought after. We can’t afford to keep losing experienced nurses with the looming workforce shortage. Pay Equity could make a real difference to retention.
I’m here today to stand up for all NZNO members, nurses across New Zealand and all the workers in female-dominated professions to tell you we demand equal pay for work of equal value now. Pay Equity is good for New Zealand families, communities and the economy.
See also: Nurses’ impassioned plea in favour of pay equity: ‘We can’t afford to live in the communities we work in’, Dominion Post, 6 March 2019 (includes video).