The country's largest education union says it too will take legal action over gender discrimination in the workforce.

The New Zealand Education Institute (NZEI) said it would seek legal redress over pay for education support workers, in the wake of a case filed by the College of Midwives at the High Court in Wellington today.

READ MORE:
Midwives gather at High Court to file landmark pay claim

The College has said it had been "left with no choice" but to take the legal action.
Its statement of claim argues that pay levels for midwives breach gender rules under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

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In a statement this afternoon, NZEI said it welcomed the initiative of the midwives. It had also been watching developments in the case of Lower Hutt caregiver Kristine Bartlett who last year won in the Supreme Court against her employers over pay discrimination.

It said it would seek equal pay for Education Support Workers, a female dominated profession which are employed by the Ministry of Education to give education support for students with special needs, largely in early childhood.

In 2008, a study found there were around 600 support workers, whose jobs were roughly equivalent to prison officers in skills, responsibilities, and emotional and physical demands. Yet the support workers' top hourly pay was only $19.29 compared with $32.07 for a senior corrections officer.

NZEI said the study, but the Pay Equity Commission, had been sidelined by the government.

"The Government has been ignoring this human rights issue for far too long and we will now pursue our case through the courts," said NZEI National Secretary Paul Goulter.

He said some of the education support workers employed by the Ministry of Education were paid as much as $8 an hour less.

"There has been no real movement, and in fact what we're seeing across the workforce in New Zealand is growing inequity and female dominated workforces have suffered the most."

"We have given the Government plenty of time to tackle this issue and we will now also follow in the path of the midwives and the case of Kristine Bartlett and seek redress through the legal system."