The Government must make sure that workers in the care sector are paid more than four dollars an hour, Green Party industrial relations spokesperson Keith Locke said today.
The Court of Appeal this week upheld an Employment Court ruling that workers in the disability care sector should be paid the minimum wage while doing sleepover shifts. Many workers in the sector receive between $30 and $40 for working nine hour sleepover shifts.
“What the Court of Appeal judgment shows is that those working in the disability and community mental health sector have been underpaid for far too long,” said Mr Locke.
“Their wages are the equivalent of four dollars an hour – less than a third of the minimum wage.
“Workers on their sleepover shifts are away from their own home and legally responsible for the health and safety of those they are caring for. This is work.
“Other workers such as firemen and ambulance drivers are paid at their full rate during overnight shifts.
“It would be very hard-hearted to change the law in order to keep these workers on a pittance, as the Government has hinted,” said Mr Locke.
“Rather than cutting the minimum wage and threatening retrospective law changes, the Government needs to work with the unions and the workers to negotiate a fair path forward.
“We should respect those who do this night work, usually away from their families, rather than trying via the courts and legislation to keep them on below subsistence wages.”