Onus must go on businesses to lift pay of Pacific workers – commissioner

By RNZ.co.nz

Research that exposes inferior pay rates for Pacific people confirms years of complaints about inequity, the Equal Employment Opportunities commissioner says.

The majority of the Pacific Pay Gap can’t be explained and is likely due to racism or unconscious bias by employers, the study has found.

The Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner, Saunoamaali'i  Dr Karanina Sumeo

Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo hopes businesses and the government will use the data to bring about meaningful change. Photo: supplied

The Auckland University of Technology research, released today by the Human Rights Commission, analysed the job characteristics, education levels, number of household dependants, and regions where people lived.

For Pasifika men, those factors accounted for only 27 percent of the pay gap, meaning almost three-quarters of the pay gap couldn’t be explained.

For Pasifika women, 61 percent of the pay gap couldn’t be explained.

The Equal Employment Opportunities commissioner, Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo, said the research provided numbers for years of inequity that Pacific people have complained of.

“It is horrifying and it’s the sort of numbers we would really like business to pay attention to in terms of how we go forward and it’s also the sort of data we would like government to pay attention to…

“We are talking about people’s livelihoods; the hardship facing their children.”

She said under the Human Rights Act it was unlawful for employers or anyone acting on their behalf to offer less favourable pay and conditions to some job candidates.

It was a basic human right to be paid in a fair manner, she told Morning Report.

From interviews and surveys Sumeo said Pacific people had made clear they were prepared to complete more training or upskill but despite becoming more productive in their roles they did not receive pay rises.

“You become more expert at your task but the pay doesn’t come with it so we need to align those things together.”

Sumeo said not many Pacific people had the time to network because often they were working two jobs or they were needed at home.

There was also a low union membership rate among Pacific people and this needed to change so they weren’t trying to improve their job situation by themselves.

She was also in favour of legislation for pay transparency so workplaces would be required to collect ethnicity data.

“To take the onus off Pacific people to stand up for themselves and put the duty on our businesses, our employers to do the right thing.”

With Auckland having the bulk of Pacific workers (71 percent) the city’s businesses should have managers who possessed “culture competence”.

She said one example was that a Pacific person found it intimidating to be interviewed by a panel of four people.

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