On the Tuesday after Easter, the unionists celebrated the landmark pay equity settlement for carers at the Loaves and Fishes Hall.

It was apt - for just as Jesus reportedly fed 5000 from five loaves and two fish, something akin to a miracle must have happened to get a National Party minister standing around the scones and club sandwiches celebrating a workers' victory with a bunch of unionists.

They didn't quite sing songs of solidarity together - and the peace may be for a limited time - but both sides sang unqualified praise of each other's conduct on this occasion.

The occasion was the $2 billion pay equity settlement for carers and support workers, mainly in the aged care and disability sectors.


E Tu spokesman John Ryall said it was a "once in a lifetime pay rise" and quite rightly claimed it as a union victory.

In less tangible ways it was also a victory for National.

The fact of the settlement and the size of the settlement had former Prime Minister John Key written all over it.

Key recognised that National's problem was that it was seen as the Tin Man: in need of a heart.

Key called it "compassionate conservatism" and picked up policies once considered the preserve of the left wing to address it.

The settlement shows English has recognised the same thing.

It is hard to think of another way of spending $2b which would get the same near unanimous approval.

The increases for carers will not make them rich - it does not even take them to the average wage. But it does pull them above the living wage after hovering around the minimum wage for decades.

But the carers' settlement was not just targeted at the 55,000 workers affected. It was targeted at middle New Zealand.

The political benefits were two-fold.

First, it made the Government look serious about dealing with the issue of women's' pay, albeit it a later convert than many would like.

The longer term ramifications of the gender pay gap and pay equity issue became clear the very next day when Statistics NZ released its analysis on the superannuation savings of New Zealanders.

That found men had a median savings of $69,000 compared with women on $42,000. It pointed at lower pay for women, breaks in work to care for children, and lower contributions to super schemes as the reasons.

Second, warm, fuzzy feelings are a big part of a government's image - and there were few more deserving beneficiaries of National's hunt for this than the carers.

Aged care is an issue that speaks to most New Zealanders - not just those in rest homes or getting at-home care, but their children and those nearing the time when they themselves might need such care.

For some there is an element of guilt in having parents in a rest home. The carers do a job the children cannot or will not do.

There is some peace of mind in knowing those doing that job are being paid enough and that the parents are being cared for by experienced and happy staff.

At its core, it was about fairness.

But it was also about politics.

The remorseless poaching from traditional Labour territory left Labour leader Andrew Little near speechless. Labour was almost silent when the news broke.

Little dedicated his time to slamming National for being "dragged kicking and screaming" to settlement.

That was not a sentiment echoed by E Tu's Ryall, who stuck to celebrating the occasion and thanked the Government for opting to settle rather than send it back to get bogged down in the courts for years more.

It was not the first time Little had been left flat-footed. The other time that happened was when National moved in the 2015 Budget to lift benefit rates for families.

Happily it was a short term affliction. The very next day, National outlined its "tweaks" to the immigration system - an area Little was much happier to wade in on.

The policy was "tinkering" and English reinstated to his position as a man with "no vision" and "no leadership".

Try telling the carers that when they get their pay packets on July 1.