Opinion: Pay equity campaigner Kristine Bartlett on her struggle for victory

On Tuesday the Government signed a $2 billion agreement to boost the wages of 55,000 low-paid care and support workers. At the forefront of the court case which sparked the settlement was 68-year-old aged care worker Kristine Bartlett, from Lower Hutt. She spoke to Newshub political reporter Maiki Sherman about her five-year fight for pay equity.

OPINION: It's been a long, tough five years, but gosh it's been worth it.

The settlement offer is magical, absolutely brilliant.

I'm emotional about it because it's been a long time coming and it's going to make so much difference for the low-paid women in our industry.

We've been struggling for many a year, basically living off the minimum wage. It hits hard at home.

I've seen a lot of my colleagues struggle. To get to work on a rainy day without bus fares; not being able to afford to go to the doctor.

And not just where I am, but as I travelled from the top of the North Island down to the bottom of the South – it's happening everywhere in the industry.

Those issues are really sad and this is why it was so important to stand up for this case.

This is going to be a life-changer for all of us. It'll lift people out of poverty; give us dignity – that's all we ask for. Dignity, and to be able to manage on our wages.

So this is going to be incredible – but it's got to go to a vote by the workers yet so there's still a little way to go.

Why were we so unfairly treated all these years? I guess because nobody stood up. We just accepted it because we love our jobs so much that we just carried on week after week, year after year. We love caring.

So when the Service and Food Workers Union (now part of E tū Union) asked if I would step up, I didn't hesitate.

Up and down the country, three court cases, two appeals – it's been tough but the support has been amazing. Without it I would've probably given up, but it's kept me strong and made me brave.

Once the case became public and the [aged care] residents' families found out how much we were earning, they couldn't believe it. They really couldn't believe it.

They've supported us immensely, told us to keep going and not give up.

This will be the biggest pay rise we'll ever get.

I'm just so happy, for all of us.

Kristine Bartlett is an aged care worker from Lower Hutt who took an Equal Pay Act case against her employer, TerraNova Homes and Care.

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