The Jean Parker case

The debate around equal pay in the public service took off after the Second World War as ex-servicemen returned to the workforce and sought jobs that women had been doing.

In 1949 the Arbitration Court set the minimum wage for women at 70% of the male rate.

By the 1950s the equal pay debate had become an organised campaign and the PSA was committed to the cause.  A pivotal moment came in 1956 with a case involving Jean Parker, a section leader in the Inland Revenue Department in Dunedin. 

At that time rules governed by the Public Service Commission (PSC) included different levels of salary progression for women and men. Maximum pay rates for men were far higher and many women were junior to the most junior males in their grades.  Jean Parker took a case against this and won but the PSC then went on to reduce her salary and responsibilities. 

That decision was met by intense criticism from women workers, women’s organisations and the Labour opposition and the PSC eventually reinstated her salary and position. 

Later Dan Long as General Secretary of the PSA stated “The Parker case was undoubtedly a turning point in the campaign for equal pay.”

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