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Cath Kelly, A Woman of Purpose

An obituary to Cath Kelly by Anne Goodman

Cath was a woman of great purpose, great integrity, tenacity and diligence. I was proud to be a friend and am honoured to be able to share some of her stories, and to listen to others. All showing what a remarkable woman she was.

I loved listening to Cath talk about her exploits as a young single woman in the forties and fifties. How she went to Yugoslavia to build roads for Tito and socialism. Her hike across Scotland and the discomfort of rain and tents.

How she bought the house in Shannon Street after she returned in 1952, using money her mother had left her. It cost 2000 pounds – people told her she was mad. Cath ignored them, went to carperntry classes, lined the walls and built all the cupboards in the large kitchen/dining area. They are still there today.

Cath was a leader in the public service equal pay campaign. She relished talking about it and on one occasion I taped her. What follows are Cath’s words taken from that tape.

“Equal pay had been an issue for the PSA all along. Rhona Bailey had been at the forefront of a campaign in the 1940s after the war. In 1955, the Wellington section supported a resolution by Jim Winchester that the executive launch a major campaign for equal pay.

It was the treatment accorded to Jean Parker in 1956 that gave the campaign impetus. She was a most efficient clerk with eight people under her. So when a male cadet was promoted over her, she laid an appeal – and she won it. Then they demoted her.

There was absolute outrage, not only within the PSA but publicly. There was a lot of media coverage and the case was debated in parliament. Eventually her salary was reinstated but by this time the equal pay campaign had really taken off.

Margaret Long was the convenor of the PSA women’s committee, which had two positions on the executive, and I was chair of the Wellington women’s committee. The campaign was particularly active in Wellington, the Waikato and Palmerston North. Wherever there were activists.

We held lunchtime women’s meetings in all the government departments. We organised two big Town Hall meetings in Wellington, attended by over 1000 members. I remember running off leaflets on a Gestetner in the dead of night.

Buffet teas were a big organising tool. We would invite a speaker and sell tickets. It amused us that here we were, non-respectable women doing such a respectable task as having a buffet tea.

One of our tactics was to meet with MPs. Equal pay was in the Labour Party’s manifesto but Walter Nash, the Labour prime minister, was very reluctant to support it.

The only reason the Equal Pay Act was passed was that Nash was overseas at the time. Jack Turnbull, the PSA general secretary, got the law drafting office to draft the bill. It went through parliament and National voted for it as well.

We won this through a mixture of clever tactics and the strong opinions of women both inside and outside the PSA.

You have to keep going. You don’t win anything without a struggle. And even when you do win it, it tends to disappear unless you keep on putting in the effort.

It was very pleasing that Cath was presented with the CTU ’s lifetime achievement award in 2015. Cath was presented with the award by her daughter, Helen.

 

OBITUARY: CATH AND THE CAMPAIGN FOR EQUAL PAY – by Margaret Ledgerton

Cath was inclined to dismiss the contribution she made to a range of political and social issues in New Zealand – she often chose to take a back seat. Her consistent approach was to give the recognition to the ‘rank and file’- to her, they were the essential heroes, not any individual. Her view was that historical change wasn’t achieved by individuals like herself, but by the action of many.

It’s a real privilege then to have the opportunity to talk about the contribution Cath made to the campaign for equal pay for women in the Public Service. That campaign has been referred to as one of the largest and most far-reaching campaigns in the history of the PSA. Elizabeth Orr, a leader in the later 1972 campaign said: “The 1960 Act is a world first and it ought to be in our history alongside women’s suffrage.”

Cath’s reasons for getting involved in the equal pay campaign were the same reasons she had for getting involved in campaigns about the Vietnam War and Apartheid. She saw injustice and oppression and it wasn’t right. She had convictions and values that provided a better way, both socially and economically.

Cath’s involvement in achieving equal pay is echoed in what’s happening now: There’s a continuum of course: the campaign for equal value equal pay/pay equity; the successful court case and negotiations for fair pay for care-workers; and the expected amendments to the Equal Pay Act 1972. Many people here are still involved in campaigns about these issues – and I think of her often when they’re being discussed.

In the early 1950s, Cath was a Maori Affairs typist [with a university degree which was unusual in the Public Service then] and what was referred to as an ‘international outlook’. She’d travelled overseas; studied law for a while coming in the top few in her year; done a range of jobs – working as a teacher, and a road builder amongst other things.

Naturally, she joined the PSA and a Wellington-based discussion group of PSA left wing activists: Korero, which was to play a key role throughout the equal pay campaign. Members included her close friend Margaret Long …. Others involved as members, counsellors or supporters included Rona Bailey, Margaret Corner, Jack Lewin, Dan Long, Jim Delahunty, Shirley Smith and Bill Sutch and so many others.

Cath’s strategy, along with Margaret and later Dan Long, was always to involve the ‘rank and file’. She had a strong belief that support had to be built with organisations beyond the PSA. With all trade unions, workers and other interested organisations. This was a major focus.

Equal pay activity brought Cath to the attention of the Security Services early on. Cables from the U.S Embassy in Wellington 1958, referring to communist sympathisers, including Cath – note the role she played: “The only activity which communists have directly controlled recently has been the drive for equal pay in the Public Service. Mr Jim Ferguson, Miss Eichelbaum and Miss Brand/Long have conducted this agitation”. [A NZ Security Service spy who had infiltrated meetings, including at Cath’s house, described her as a “striking beauty …’].

The injustices Cath saw, in her daily work, were in the entrenched discrimination for women in the Public Service. Cath saw the elitism and sexism in pay structures and employment opportunities for women. The context at that time can be summed up by the comments of Acting Public Service Commissioner, George Bolt, who chaired the Investigations Committee on Equal Pay set up by the Public Service Commission. He said: There is not one girl in a 1,000 capable of filling a controlling position over male and mixed staff. His view was that “We as taxpayers would be greatly concerned if the government agreed to purchase an article for six shillings when such articles could obviously be purchased for five shillings.” Cath saw that statement as a wonderful opportunity and said: “Bolt set the place alight. We quoted it up and down the country.” ….with great success.

When Cath was Chair of the PSA Wellington Women’s Committee, she was interviewed . She spoke about her activities in the campaign between 1956 and 1960  Summing that up she said:

I was active in the campaign itself. That was my role. Cath in her work around equal pay, and in all her other activism, was an initiator, organiser, analyst, strategist, speaker, writer, communicator, internationalist – a true grass-roots activist.

If you were lucky enough to have Cath as a friend – you had someone whose friendship you could rely on completely, someone who was loyal, affectionate, supportive and generous. I’ll miss her wry and often wicked sense of humour, her integrity, her conversation – and her pithy observations and analysis on politics and politicians.

Margaret Ledgerton

References:

Conversations with Cath, and others, over many years

Margaret Corner [1988), No Easy Victory: Towards Equal Pay for Women in the Government Service 1890-1960.

Mark Derby [2013], Dan Long and the Rise of White Collar Unions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Latest pay statistics for women are a call to action

Media release: Pay Equity Coalition

 Latest pay statistics for women are a call to action

 The latest quarterly employment figures are no comfort for women and are a call for action from the National Government, says the Pay Equity Coalition.

 The latest Quarterly Employment Survey shows that the average hourly pay imbalance between men and women has widened from 12.9% to 13.2%

“The survey results make the recommendations of the Joint Working Group (JWG) on Pay Equity Principles even more critical.  The recommendations would go some way to reducing the unfair gender pay imbalance” says spokesperson Angela McLeod.

 “Women must be paid fairly. Paying women less than their male counterparts for work of the same value is discrimination and it has to stop.”

 The Government are considering the recommendations now. The Coalition have written to the Minister of Women encouraging her to work with her cabinet colleagues and endorse the recommendations of the JWG.

 “It’s time for action from this Government. New Zealand has an opportunity to do the right thing and pay women what they are worth and pay women equally,” said McLeod.

 ENDS

For further comment please contact –

Pay Equality Coalition Spokesperson, Angela McLeod – 027 497 2761

 

 

Letter to the Minister of Women

3 August 2016

Hon Louise Upston

Wellington

Dear Minister,

The Pay Equity Coalition Wellington writes to seek your full endorsement of the recommendations made to the Government from the Joint Working Party (JWG) on Pay Equity Principles and respectfully asks for your support in your role as Minister of Women in guiding this work through the Cabinet process.

The work by the JWG represents an unparalleled opportunity to make a real difference to the unequal pay that women in female dominated sectors get just because they are women.

The Pay Equity Coalition was established in 2009 and follows in the footsteps of prominent national women’s organisations who have worked since the 1972 Equal Pay Act was enacted to see equal pay for work of equal value implemented. Amongst our membership of more than 20 organisations is the Coalition of Equal Value for Equal Pay (CEVEP), the National Council of Women (NCW), the Federation of Graduate Women (FGW) the New Zealand Federation of Business & Professional Women (BPWNZ), Zonta ( Mana) and other women’s groups, community organisations and unions.

The realisation of the equal pay for work of equal value principle will have wide economic and societal benefits – not only for women now –but also for future generations of young women. It is unthinkable to our younger generation of women that we would not seek to do all in our power to address this inequality and that we would allow women’s pay to be lower because they work in an area where women predominate.

The next step in the JWG process – endorsement of the principles by the Government – represents a significant moment in the history of equal pay in New Zealand. The work by the JWG and the development of the principles provides the basis for an orderly process by which women can be paid according to their skills, responsibilities and the value they add – and not on the basis of their gender and their historical roles in the home and in society.

We ask you as a Minister for Women with a critical role in this process ahead, to urge your colleagues to fully support the JWG recommendations and the implementation of the equal Pay for work of equal value principles to achieve equal pay for New Zealand women.

Yours sincerely

Angela McLeod

Pay Equity Coalition Wellington Spokesperson

 

It’s time for equal pay

The Wellington Pay Equity Coalition is delighted with the announcement made today by the Government that the Joint Working Group has developed principles for the Equal Pay Act.  Continue reading

A matter of equity – a great read

Matter of equity

International Women’s Day 2016 – a day to celebrate Kristine Bartlett

“E tū union member Kristine Bartlett and her fellow workers are the perfect women to celebrate on International Women’s Day,” says CTU Vice-President Rachel Mackintosh. Continue reading

WOMEN’S RIGHTS MOVIE SHOWS MUCH TO BE DONE

Pay Equity Coalition Media Release: For Immediate Release

WOMEN’S RIGHTS MOVIE SHOWS MUCH TO BE DONE

The release of the movie Suffragette serves as a reminder that women are fighting similar fights to last century says the Pay Equity Coalition.

“Although New Zealand was the first country to give all women the right to vote, 25 years ahead of their British counterparts, Kate Sheppard and her supporters would be shocked by how little progress has been made on pay equity in New Zealand in the past 121 years,” says Pay Equity Coalition spokesperson Angela McLeod.

“The gap between men and women’s pay, as measured by average hourly pay is 14%, according to the New Zealand’s 2015 Annual Income Survey and it hasn’t budged much in the past ten years.

“The gender pay gap is due partly to the fact that women working in predominately “female occupations” such as care giving, teachers’ aides and midwives are paid less than men in  “male occupations” such as construction and engineering.

“Even though women may have as great or greater skills and responsibilities, for example needed for looking after the welfare of the elderly, children, and babies and their mothers, women have traditionally been paid less.

“Caring responsibilities can involve life and death decisions, yet because they have been seen as inherent “female” traits, they have been undervalued in pay packets.

“Women deserve pay equity, as upheld in the recent Court of Appeal decision “Terranova v Service and Food Workers Union and Bartlett”. The court held that in female-dominated work the Equal Pay Act 1972 requires equal pay for work of equal value, not simply the same pay for the same work.

“Job comparisons need to be based on the skills, responsibilities, conditions of work, the degree of effort and relevant work conditions of the employment. Once these comparisons are made between predominately “female occupations” and predominately “male occupations”, and women can expect to see equity in pay.

“We can’t think of a better New Year’s resolution by the Government, in the spirit of ‘Suffragette’ than a commitment to closing the gender pay gap,” says Ms McLeod

ENDS

For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact: Angela McLeod, Spokesperson for Pay Equity Coalition, Ph 027 497 2761

Pay Equity Challenge Coalition.

Convenor: Eileen Brown.  Telephone: (04) 802 3813. Media spokesperson: Angela McLeod. Telephone (027) 497-2761

Web: www.payequity.wordpress.com