Midwives 'not getting what they need'

Midwives earn on average about $53,000 a year before tax (file)
Midwives earn on average about $53,000 a year before tax (file)

Midwives fighting for better pay say the Government should expect a growing number of cases brought before the courts in the near future.

The College of Midwives is today filing a discrimination case against the Government, claiming its workers are paid less because they're female.

Angela McLeod of the Pay Equality Challenge Coalition says cases like this will become increasingly common.

"They're not getting what they need any other way," she told RadioLIVE.

"There isn't the political will to make change at the moment, and with more cases coming on like this, then hopefully the Government will sit up and take notice."

Midwives earn on average about $53,000 a year before tax, and are often on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The College of Midwives says people are abandoning the job in droves, and professions dominated by men that require a similar level of qualifications and experience paid more than double.

For every 1000 midwives, only one is a man.

The National Council of Women is also backing the court action, which is being filed at the High Court under the Bill of Rights Act.

"It could possibly be another generation before we get equal pay at the rate we are going now. But of course, we might be able to speed that up if there is political will," says Ms McLeod.

Prime Minister John Key says although the law is quite clear – men and women must be paid the same for the same job – the problem is women often dominate lower-paying jobs.

"There's some professions that are more dominated by women than men," he said on the Paul Henry programme this morning.

"Obviously midwifery would be one where, you know, would predominantly be dominated by women [sic]. Is it because they are women that the pay is slightly less, or is it because that's what the job pays? It depends on which perspective that you take.

"Some professions which are dominated by men will have higher pay – the argument is, what's demanded of that particular job?"

He declined to comment on the midwives' case, saying it's their right to test the law in court, and he wouldn't want to "jump in front of that".

"If they've got a case and the courts agree with them, then they'll direct the Government, I guess."

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