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New Zealander of the Year

At an award evening last night, Kristine Bartlett won the title of New Zealander of the Year. She was one of three finalists, then her name was called as the winner. The Prime Minister presented her with a trophy.

She was responsible for gaining a big pay rise for care workers in rest homes. They had been paid the minimum wage, the same as workers serving coffee in a café, but care workers are responsible for the care of frail, elderly people. She herself had worked at her job for 19 years but received no extra pay for experience. She had 3 children and said it was always a struggle to manage on the minimum wage.

The case was about pay equity for women. When compared with men’s pay for similar work needing similar skills, it was poorly paid. The problem is that men do not usually do the job of care workers so it was hard to argue that men would be paid more.

The union, E Tu, wanted a woman to front the campaign for better pay and Kristine was asked if she would be the face of the campaign. She agreed. It was a long struggle – five court cases and two appeals over five years before the judges decided that care workers deserved better pay.

Kristine Bartlett says she is just an ordinary woman. She hated being in the limelight. She had many sleepless nights during this period but had the support of friends which helped her to keep going.

To hear more about her campaign, listen to April 18 2017.

Vocabulary

• trophy (n) – usually a silver cup but in this case it looked like an attractive blue glass ornament
• frail (adj) – weak, not strong
• struggle (n)– a very big effort (v) to make a very big effort
• equity (n) – fairness
• to front (v) – to be the public figure
• appeal (n) – an appeal court is a higher court
• limelight (n) – the centre of attention; in the early 1800s, the stage in a theatre was lit by heating lime to make a bright light.