Gender pay equity for social workers in Aotearoa New Zealand

Amy Ross is national organiser for Aotearoa New Zealand’s largest union, the Public Service Association (PSA) Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi. She is also founder and organiser of the Social Work Action Network (SWAN), which is a network within the PSA that aims to unify and advocate for social workers in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In this podcast Amy Ross shares her experience of what she describes as the remarkable strategic victory of bringing about the first step in gender pay equity to social workers in this country. In conversation with Deb Stanfield she celebrates the courage of the original claimants, and the genuine partnership between the union and Oranga Tamariki (Aotearoa New Zealand’s child protection agency). Amy applies a critical lens to this significant historic event for women and for the profession of social work – an event she describes as taking us to a ‘whole new level of discourse.’

12 replies on “Gender pay equity for social workers in Aotearoa New Zealand”

Great efforts and well and truly overdue.
I can only hope that this filters through to the NGO sector as this is the engine room of Social Work .This is where change happens or at least that’S the aim and we have to see pay equity here within our own profession.We cant or should not see NGO S/W ‘s doing the hard graft for sometimes half the salary that their colleagues are receiving down the road.
Hopefully the start of true pay equity for all S/W.

Hi Phillip,

i think that it is important perhaps to acknowledge that the entire profession of Sw has not had the pay equity that it deserves and this is the beginnning of some important change that is going to uplift the profession as a whole.
i think that all domains of Sw work hard in the roles that they do, and one is not more or less hard working than the other, it is just different types of social work. i have respect for both NGO SW’s and the work they do, as much as for the statutory SW’s and their mahi. There has been an undercurrent of a ‘them vs us’ attitude since the pay equity occured, and it would be great to be able to join forces and provide collegial support for all SW’s as the aim moving forward in supporting pay equity across the board.

Thanks Lindy for your words of support. I work in the Specialist Mental Health Service for the CDHB. Across the government and non-government agencies social workers are working with consumers, family whanau with such a vast range of social problems, whether it be with children/adolescents in schools, community case management, inpatient work in mental health, physical or aged care, prison-based work … help, the list goes on! We add value in so many ways to the fabric of our communities. It is worth celebrating the success of our colleagues as it will and ought to have a flow-on effect. It just may take a bit more time but hopefully before I retire!

Hi, there my name is Camden, I am a year one student in nelson doing the degree in social work at NMIT, I am just wanting to know if cite your comment here as I am doing an assessment surrounding the pay gap between NGO and statutory social workers, and the general lack of funding NGO receive. and I love your comment that NGO social workers are the engine room and do the hard yards.
I know this was a couple of years ago now, would love to email you.

thank you

yeh,no problem. This is a huge issue that needs to be addressed and the more noise we make,hopefully we will eventually get there.

Thanks phillip i emailed you through your website last night.

I was wanting to know. How you stand on this now? How big the funding gap really is between statutory social work and ngo.
Any info would be much appreciated

I am so inspired by the news of this achievement! Amy Ross’s interview above is informative and has helped me understand the work taken and the significance this means for the whole of our profession.
I confess there are times I feel dispirited – progress is too slow or it feels as though there is no progress regarding structural forces impacting our communities so distructively – we know so well in our work. I can feel frustrated knowing the complex, skillful and difficult work mostly with very good outcomes that is undertaken across the country in all areas (statutory, NGOs, community etc) and yet often the lack of recognition and understanding of its complexity.

This achievement has energised me and reminded me change does happen. This milestone is not only about the incredibly well deserved increase in remuneration – it is generating a new more accurate view of who we are and the skill and value of the work we do. Kia kaha!

To both Phillip and Rebecca I wholeheartedly agree with your high regard for the steadfast mahi undertaken by so many people to make this happen, and with your appreciation for the magnitude of this success. I love the clarity, thoughtfulness and strength Amy offers us in this interview and reiterate her final words about the power of the collective and the need for us to be intelligent about (and patient with) the complexity of this business we call social change!

Kia ora, I loved this interview format as a way of understanding the progress of this important work and fantastic victory, of both process and outcome. That was an interesting discussion about the impact of disruptive ideas and the strategic importance of this decision to promote the profession in relation to other disciplines. A good reminder too of the vital role of unions and SWAN in particular and the imperative to work together for the next phase of the work. Thanks Deb and Amy!

Kia ora Lindy
I can’t agree with you more about the need to recognize and celebrate the hard work of all social workers and to hold fast to the aim that we all be “rewarded” equally for our efforts. You could say we are in challenging phase of this equity process, a time that puts us at risk of division as you well point out, and of losing sight of the achievement. We had a seminar at Wintec last week with our year 4 social work students and some visiting social work practitioners. We asked the guest social workers to speak to what they saw as currently important for our profession, and they were unanimous in their view – we need to work as a collective, be clear and confident in our statements about who we are, and what we do as social workers, and be attentive to our well-being and the well-being of our colleagues. There was no doubt in the room that we are professionally capable of doing all this. Thanks for your comment!

I can feel frustrated knowing the complex ,skill full and difficult work mostly with very good outcomes. It has reminded me that change does happen.

HI Camden
Is this still something you are working on.
This new posting today reminded me again of this thread and I dont recall getting an email from you in the website?
You can contact me through this email if you still wish to.

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