Unions have slammed new pay rates for care and support workers they say will see a "measly 3 per cent" increase based on legislation rushed through Parliament by Labour.
The Government also came under fire from both sides of the House for "rushing" through the legislation under urgency on Wednesday, when it had nearly five years to address.
Ultimately, the Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlements Amendment Bill passed last night with the support of all parties bar the Greens, who criticised the Government for "rushing through legislation at the last minute, silencing caregiver and community voices, just to increase pay by a paltry 65 cents to 79 cents an hour".
The National-led government passed the original Care and Support Workers (Pay Equity) Settlement Act in 2017, after a heroic battle by Kristine Bartlett.
Over five years it delivered $2 billion in wage rises to care workers in residential aged care facilities, as well as those who care for frail, elderly, disabled and injured people in their own homes.
The pay increases ranged from 15-50 per cent. But critically the legislation was to expire on July 1, and despite multiple warnings and union efforts there had been no agreements reached about the path beyond.
Health Minister Andrew Little said the new legislation preserved existing terms and conditions, provided an interim pay increase and ended the "discriminatory situation that prevented them from taking a pay-equity claim".
"The rates in the legislation are being lifted by 4.6 per cent, which means the top rate will go from $27 an hour to $28.25 an hour," Little said.
"Of this, 1.6 per cent was paid in an out-of-cycle rise at the end of last year and the rest will be paid from July 1, making sure workers have got extra money in their pockets while they pursue a pay-equity claim."
Green Party spokeswoman Jan Logie said effectively that meant just a 3 per cent pay rise would go to those workers.
"We should not be in a situation where the Government is rushing through legislation at the last minute, silencing caregiver and community voices, just to increase pay by a paltry 65 cents to 79 cents an hour.
"Unions have said that if the same wage rate calculations were used today as were used in the historic Kristine Bartlett 2017 settlement, wages would be around $7 higher per hour – not less than $1."
Logie said it "looks like exploitation" as it did not meet increases to cost of living and would disproportionately impact wāhine Māori and Pasifika in the low wage sectors.
National Party health spokesman Dr Shane Reti said they supported the bill but were concerned about lack of consultation.
"E tū is angry. PSA is angry. NZACA is angry. They are all angry that their voices will not be heard.
"Five years when this could have been done—we're here today and we're going to rush this through without the voices of those concerned being substantively taken into account."
Act Party leader David Seymour criticised the original legislation, which effectively prevented these workers from making pay equity claims, and with their pay rates set by Parliament.
But he also blasted Labour for rushing through the legislation with "no public consultation".
"[National] was put in a difficult position by the courts and it basically reacted by kicking the can down the road five years.
"But none of that is to excuse where we've got to over five years, which is that this Government has had five years to settle these pay equity claims and couldn't do it."
Meanwhile, unions - including E tū, Public Service Association (PSA) and New Zealand Nurses Organisation - representing thousands of care and support workers said the legislation would leave workers and the sector in crisis for longer.
E tū Director Kirsty McCully said members were severely disappointed at the pay increase the Government has decided on – a "measly" 3 per cent, far below the cost-of-living pressures workers are facing.
When the current Act expires on July 1, unions will raise a pay equity claim to further increase the pay rates for support workers, but this process is expected to take 18 months.
"With inflation at 6.9 percent and skyrocketing energy and fuel bills, these frontline workers face another 18 months of misery and it means their pay essentially goes backwards.
"It's good news we'll now be able to take a pay equity claim which wasn't possible under the previous legislation, but workers can't wait that long for a decent pay rise."