“The Government’s announcement on pay equity may have disappointed DHB nurses, but it'll create chaos in the aged-care sector,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“The Government had to resolve pay claims arising from the Terranova case and the subsequent Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Act. However, the way it has gone about that is to treat workers differently based on where they work, rather than based on the work they do.

“The community and aged-care sector has been absolutely hammered through the Covid period, and it is the unsung hero of the pandemic. The disabled and elderly are the most vulnerable to the virus, and New Zealand’s performance through the pandemic is significant because of the performance of the community and aged-care sectors. At the same time, the Government’s new health reforms say they will be focused on community-based care.

“Despite all that, we now have a settlement that gives significant pay rises to DHB-employed nurses and carers, but not those in the aged care sector. The result will be carnage. We will see an already strained community and aged-care sector haemorrhaging workers because of a widening pay gap. A care assistant in a DHB could be paid more than a registered nurse outside a DHB.

“The Government should have approached these negotiations from the point of view that across Government, it would pay based on the work done rather than the place of work. That might have meant less money available for DHB employees, but it would only be fair if workers outside DHBs benefited too.

“Having had five years to fix this issue, the Government have made a real hash of the pay equity issue for nurses and carers. No doubt the inequity will have to be rectified when there are not enough people to care for those with chronic illness, the disabled, injured and the elderly, and the fiscal cost will be enormous.

“Once again Labour’s mismanagement has created chaos and greater pressure on the taxpayer than needed.”