Pay rates came under attack at Metlifecare's annual meeting yesterday as a group of retirement village workers protested at starting on $14.42/hour.

Alastair Duncan, Service & Food Workers Union strategic industry leader, asked for directors to try to improve pay rates.

Eight caregivers and cleaners in matching "Fair share for aged care" T-shirts, told what they did and Duncan pleaded for better conditions.

"This is a sector that, because of the price control and Government constraints, undervalues workers and $14.42/hour is entry level pay," Duncan told about 100 shareholders at the firm's Takapuna retirement village, The Poynton.


Peter Brown, the chairman, said he understood the concerns.

"I would like to think we would make some good ground on that," Brown told Duncan, who said afterwards that many workers were lowly paid because they were women.

"These people should be on $19/hour. If they were men, they'd be on $25/hour. The man changing the lightbulb here [at The Poynton] would be on $25/hour. People who have worked in the retirement sector for 25 years are still on $15/hour to $16/hour," Duncan complained, saying the workers were trusted with people's lives.

Metlifecare is in play, as Retirement Villages Group's 37.7 per cent holding is up for sale and could go to one investor.

Metlifecare managing director and chief executive Alan Edwards said NZ's second-largest listed retirement specialist behind Ryman Healthcare was in a sound financial position.

He said Metlifecare aimed to build more than 200 units annually by 2015 and was well-placed geographically in the "golden triangle" between Auckland, Tauranga and Hamilton.

It had consent to build a 96-apartment Glenfield village, The Orchards, develop a 4.4ha Unsworth Heights site on the North Shore and was well advanced on the third stage of The Poynton, he said.

This week, it won resource consent for a $140 million, 310-unit village at Unsworth Heights which would also have a 61-bed hospital and be the company's biggest venue in NZ.


"We are now seeking resource consent for further development at The Avenues in Tauranga and Coastal Villas in Paraparaumu, both of which we hope to commence building during this financial year," Edwards said.

Land was available at the Crestwood Village in Titirangi and Hamilton's $38 million Forest Lake Gardens was completed in the June 2013 year, the chief executive said.

Metlifecare's shares closed down 6c yesterday at $3.78.