Kristine Robyn Bartlett

Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to equal pay advocacy

Equal pay champion and 2018 New Zealander of the Year Kristine Bartlett has been recognised again for her commitment to closing the wage gap for care workers.

Bartlett, the rest home carer who campaigned for pay equity on behalf of 55,000 low-paid care and support workers, was named a companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit as part of the 2018 Queen's Birthday honours.

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"Wow. What an honour, It's been overwhelming for me.

"Everything is happening. New Zealander of the Year and now this," Bartlett said.

Her hard work saw her pay, which was just over the minimum wage, $15.75, jump to $23.50, with further pay rises over five years to $27 an hour.

The settlement equated to $2b extra for care workers over five years.

She was recognised "for more than 20 years' experience in the aged-care industry and has been an advocate for working women across the care and support sector", her Queen's Birthday Honours profile read.

The Lower Hutt denizen told the Herald she had debated whether to accept the honour or not as the win for equal pay was not just for her, it was for unions, and her fellow workers.

"It took me a long time to decide if I would accept it. I thought about accepting in recognition of my union, which without, the case would have never happened."

Despite all of her accolades and recognition she remained humble and stressed the win was a team effort - she was just the figurehead.

"It was a necessary evil and it was a chance to right the wrongs of society.

"I am just an ordinary woman who likes to get on with it. If someone told me I'd be here in six years I would have laughed and said 'yeah right'."

Bartlett and E Tū lodged a claim with the Employment Relations Authority in 2012 alleging her employer, TerraNova Homes and Care Ltd, was in breach of the Equal Pay Act of 1972.

"With unions you can win. You only get a fair deal when you belong to a union," Bartlett said.

Five years later in April 2017 the Government announced a landmark settlement in Equal Pay Care.

"Bartlett has played a significant role in bringing about changes in New Zealand's legal landscape and paving the way for women in many industries to query wage rates to ensure equity," Bartlett's profile said.