The New Zealand College of Midwives (the College) has congratulated Ontario midwives following a landmark legal decision from the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
The Tribunal has ordered the Canadian Government to take concrete actions to end the gender pay gap midwives experience as a result of that country’s Ministry of Health’s discriminatory actions.
The College says they have been following the case closely as it mirrors the current situation in New Zealand.
In 2015, the College filed a claim against the New Zealand Ministry of Health in the High Court, alleging discrimination on the basis of gender. The Canadian Midwives case was based on very similar grounds to the New Zealand one, which was eventually adjourned following an agreement that the Ministry and College would mediate a resolution.
“We have been negotiating with the New Zealand Government for almost five years now, to address pay equity issues for self-employed midwives,” says College Chief Executive Alison Eddy, “and to be frank, things have moved at a glacial, pace. We adjourned our 2015 legal action because it was indicated to us that we would have resolution far sooner than five years. We can of course return to court at any time.”
Ms Eddy says The College and midwives around the country hope the budget will provide the much needed funding to address the pay equity issue along with the development of an infrastructure that will support the profession to continue to do the work midwives do.
Following the Canadian decision on Tuesday, Toronto midwife and president of the Association of Ontario Midwives (AOM) Elizabeth Brandeis said, “Once implemented, the (Tribunal’s) orders will work to ensure midwives no longer take home substantially less compensation because our work is so deeply associated with women. The orders will ensure midwives no longer suffer from prejudice and stereotypes about the value of our work.”
Alison Eddy says she longs to be able to say those words about New Zealand midwives.
“This is a gender issue,” she says. “We are a female workforce working with women. Just as the Ontario midwives have said, we know what systemic gender discrimination is and what it looks like. We live with discrimination and its impact in our own lives, and we witness discrimination and its impact on the lives of the people who come to us for care each and every day. This is a very significant decision and we hope our Government takes heed.”
The College’s #backmidwives petition closes on Sunday 1 March (Children’s Day) and currently has just over 23,000 signatures.
A Parliamentary breakfast will be held in Wellington on March 5th to celebrate the International Year of the Midwife. As Health Minister David Clark is unable to attend, it is hoped the #backmidwives petition can be presented to both Minister Clark and Minister Julie Anne Genter, as soon as possible.