The author of a Human Rights Commission report on aged care says conditions in the sector are a type of modern-day slavery.
"It offends against human decency. The reliance on the emotional umbilical cord between women working as carers and the older people they care for at $13-$14 an hour is a form of modern-day slavery," Judy McGregor, an equal employment opportunities commissioner, told the Sunday Star-Times.
"It exploits the goodwill of women, it is a knowing exploitation. We can claim neither ignorance nor amnesia," she said.
The report finds carers working in private rest homes are paid less than those doing similar work in hospitals.
The commission report, Caring Counts, includes a 10-point plan based on evidence gathered from nearly 900 participants during a 12-month period in 2011-12.
Among the reports recommendations are an automatic top-10 Cabinet spot for the minister for older people, and for district health boards to be ordered to develop within three years a mechanism to achieve pay parity between their carers and those in home support and residential facilities.
The report also calls for a five-star quality assurance rating system of rest homes to be developed.
The Service and Food Workers Union, which represents workers in the sector, says the report contains no surprises and should prompt immediate action from the government, DHBs and aged care employers.
Labour and the Greens have backed the commission's recommendations.
"It's time for an across the board approach towards an aged care strategy for New Zealand. In fact, it's well overdue," Labour's aged care spokesman Kris Faafoi said.
"Everybody agrees that the wages are far too low. For goodness' sake, let's get everyone together to do something about it," Green Party Health spokesman Kevin Hague said.Responding to leaked draft findings from the report earlier this month Prime Minister John Key said increased pay for aged care workers was unlikely to be met any time soon because of the huge cost.
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