EEO Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue address to the Selwyn Supporters Coalition

EEO Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue address to the Selwyn Supporters Coalition

August 5, 2015

Tēnā koutou e huihui mai nei

Tēnā koutou, kia ora mai tātou katoa.

Greetings to all gathered here

Greetings and good health to all of us.

It is a privilege to be here today speaking to you all regarding a human rights perspective on aged care.

Human Rights belong to all. They begin at home. They are not just found in documents far away at the United Nations.  

They must live in our homes, our workplaces, our communities and our lives.

The first modern human rights treaty was the result of the experience of the Second World War.

With the end of that war and the creation of the United Nations the international community vowed never again to allow atrocities like those of that conflict happen again. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed in 1948 was therefore developed as a road map to guarantee the rights of every individual everywhere.

Since 1948 the rights in that declaration have been codified by numerous UN Conventions and Covenants and with the 8 core International Labour Organisation conventions.

New Zealand has signed up to the vast majority of these international treaties.

Human Rights belong to everyone.  

People cannot give them up or be deprived of them by governments, businesses or employers 

Different rights should not be considered in isolation, since the enjoyment of one will often depend on the realisation of another.

Human rights belong to older New Zealanders regardless of where they live. They also belong to our age-care workers.

The United Nations Principles for Older Persons (1991) states that: Older persons should be able to enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms when residing in any shelter, care or treatment facility, including full respect for their dignity, beliefs, needs and privacy and for the right to make decisions about their care, and the quality of their lives.

A decent standard of living is a fundamental economic right found in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, ratified by New Zealand.

As the EEO Commissioner, I am very passionate about the rights of workers. Everyone has the right to work. The right to work is a fundamental human right which is set out in international law.

The human rights principles cover the right to equal pay for equal work, to have equal employment opportunities, to have a decent income and working conditions, to belong to a trade union, to be treated with dignity and respect at work, to access training and to work in a safe and healthy work environment.

Work plays a central role in people’s quality of life. It provides people with a livelihood to support themselves and their families. Work is also a source of personal dignity, family stability, community well-being and economic growth.

Valuing the contribution of older people is becoming more important and will become increasingly so as our population ages in the coming years.  It is paramount that the human rights particularly regarding decent work and decent standard of living are realised for older persons and age care workers.

If decent work issues of aged care sector workers are not addressed there will be a direct impact upon the realisation of the rights of the older people they care for.  Low pay leads to high staff turnover and the loss of skills and experience, compromising the quality and availability of care.

For these reasons, I am also a big supporter of the living wage, particularly for aged care workers. Valuing aged care workers through decent wages explicitly values the older people they are caring for.

There are a whole range of reasons that provide a business case for improving wages including that higher wages motivate employees to work harder, they attract more capable and productive workers, they lead to lower turnover and reduce costs of hiring and training new workers.

Put simply, higher wages encourages greater productivity and staff retention which is good for business.

Low wages are linked to poverty which can have a devastating impact on other human rights such as health, housing, education and dignity.

The business case for raising wages is in effect a human rights case.  Businesses can help advance human rights by offering access to decent work and higher living standards.

They can also hinder human rights, through unsafe working conditions, migrant worker exploitation, and damage to community environments.

It is encouraging that the Government is finally looking at pay parity for aged care workers.

But pay parity is not pay equity.

Equal pay for equal work is a fundamental right that cannot be denied any longer.

I would like to applaud the Selwyn Supporters Coalition for taking the issue of the rights of older persons and the rights of aged-care workers very seriously. Through advocating for a living wage, you are advocating for principles of equality and dignity which constitute the very basis of fundamental rights in international law.

EEO Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue

Dr Blue is committed to progressing human rights and issues of equity, particularly those that affect equal employment opportunities.

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