Call to address pay equity for social workers

SociaLink general manager Liz Davies.

Organisations representing community social services and social workers have joined forces to launch a collective call for pay equity and fair funding this Social Workers’ Day, September 22.

Employers, union representatives and social worker advocates say the untenable pay gap is making it hard to attract and retain social workers in non-government and iwi organisations, and compromising services to the children, rangatahi, families, whānau and communities around the motu they serve.

The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers, Western Bay of Plenty's SociaLink, Social Service Providers Aotearoa and the PSA launched their collective call on Aotearoa New Zealand Social Workers’ Day.

They say action is needed to remedy the significant pay gap between social sector workers in community and iwi organisations and those in government, because of the detrimental impact the pay gap is having.

The Government needs to step up to resolve the pay gap with fair funding for community and iwi social services.

Given these organisations and the services they provide are largely government funded, addressing the pay gap relies on government making funding available, they say.

Social workers in iwi and community organisations earn on average $25,000 a year less than those working in government agencies, despite having the same qualifications and skills, and often working with the same children, rangatahi, families and whānau.

The pay gap stems from historic underfunding of the community social services sector, says a statement from SociaLink.

SociaLink is an umbrella organisation for social agencies and charities in the Western Bay.

General manager Liz Davies says NGO social sector workers play a vital role in our communities.

"They are ensuring the most vulnerable people in our communities receive the services they need to have a decent quality of life. Pay equity means the value of their work is recognised."

The Public Service Association has begun taking action to achieve equal pay for NGO social workers and social service workers, with a pay equity claim against five representative social services providers.

“Unions have achieved pay equity for other sectors," PSA spokesperson Josh Gardner says.

"To gain momentum and be successful, this claim needs the collective voice and support of workers in the social sector, and today is about lifting up that collective voice.”

Social Service Providers Aotearoa is coordinating the employer response to the current PSA claim, and representing the wider sector.

Pay Equity Co-ordinator Brenda Pilott says there is an urgent need to remedy pay inequity in the sector and the underfunding that drives that.

“Community and iwi social workers do essential, demanding and complex work every day to support better outcomes for children, rangatahi and whānau, but this is not reflected in their pay. We are committed to responding to the current claim as a united sector—working together for a sector-wide solution.

We are looking to government to move quickly to close this gender pay gap for this group of essential workers.”

ANZASW Kaiwhakahaere Chief Executive Braden Clark says the social work profession was overrepresented by women who tirelessly worked to better Aotearoa New Zealand.

"It is entirely unfair that community and iwi social workers are paid significantly less than male-dominated industries and their colleagues, who do equivalent work, in statutory organisations."

As part of the collective call to action, a series of short video interviews has been released today, bringing together the voices of sector representatives, social workers and managers.

The videos are being shared through social agencies and social media, and are available at

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