August 11, 2016

Midwives Heading to Mediation on Monday “This is all we have ever wanted.”

NZCOM Media Release

The historic gender equity case filed by the New Zealand College of Midwives is heading to mediation instead of court.

An eleventh hour offer by the Ministry of Health to have the case heard in mediation has been accepted by the College.

Originally to be heard in the Wellington High Court on Monday 15 August, the case filed under the Bill of Rights legislation, will be adjourned not withdrawn. If agreement is not reached in three months, the College has retained the right to return to Court.

College Chief Executive Karen Guilliland says that was one of the key conditions the College put to the Government after the offer to mediate came in late last week.

“We are very excited by this opportunity; This is the first time we have had an unencumbered offer, to discuss and negotiate with executive decision makers within the Ministry,” she says.

Guilliland says the College is not abandoning their argument over gender equity.

“Far from it, this will be at the centre of our case to the Ministry in mediation. The right to be able to have these negotiations with decision makers on an equal basis as other health professionals is all we have ever asked for. This new offer is a real breakthrough. We were prepared to go to Court because it seemed we had no alternative. We had made numerous attempts to have serious discussions with the Ministry of Health over conditions and pay equity but had got nowhere.

Karen Guilliland says this is the first time the Ministry has formally offered and accepted an organised mediation between its top ministry officials and the College.

“This would not have happened without the College taking the claims action to the High Court. We are not a union, we are not litigators, we are midwives caring for women and their babies and we want to be able to continuing doing just that within a safe and sustainable maternity service.”

The Government’s offer to mediate has come just a week before the New Zealand College of Midwives was due to start legal action in the High Court over pay rates for community Lead Maternity Carer (LMC) midwives. The College says that midwives are being discriminated against on the basis of gender because their pay and conditions have not kept pace with that of traditionally male-dominated professions carrying similar levels of education and responsibility.

The College, advised by leading public law specialist Mai Chen filed in the High Court last August.

The Crown has agreed that the Human Rights Commission will facilitate the mediation and discussions will be held before Chief Mediator Pele Walker.