So, Labour is finally updating its workplace laws, after a hundred years, to include policy on the very incident that spawned their party: adequate breaks.
The much more interesting news, however, is that they’re protecting the right to breastfeed. Excellent news for mothers returning from maternity leave, but still intending to breastfeed their children, and continues Labour’s trend in New Zealand of being one of the better parties for women’s rights. This is the wedge that will essentially move motherhood into a worker’s rights issue, which is truly excellent.
I’m torn however. There are so many more important things to do for women in New Zealand- over at The Hand Mirror, they point out that maternity care is underfunded, which is one excellent starting point. There is still little word from the government what their policy on equal pay is. Community improvement goes largely unpaid and is undervalued, and this area is dominated by women, even if there are notable men. Education underpays its employees and is under-resourced, and is another field that is dominated by women.
While the government focuses on women’s rights as workers, it would seem that some new policy on valuing women’s work as equal to men’s work is necessary. While men often expose themselves to unpleasant or dangerous physical conditions, women tend to work in areas that are unpleasant social or mental environments, where they are undervalued and undersupported, where they are relied upon as support by other people, and where they face discrimination and systemic disadvantage.
What will the government do about that? It has a large pay gap that it inherited from the National government during the 1990s, where real wages for women actually decreased. (This followed the general wage decrease for everyone, but I’d guess it was worse for women) Labour has been good- not great, but good- for women. As far as feminism in New Zealand politics go, Labour and the Greens are probably the only parties I would consider as being policy-friendly, and Labour has done most of the legwork here.
I have the suspicion that their lag in the polls right now is making them very careful with their perception of pushing overly restrictive laws- and this probably includes their feminist agenda, too. I suppose maybe we should be grateful that they managed to work in an item as unpopular with the old boys as breastfeeding during an election year, but on this issue, my idealistic side is really clamouring to overwhelm my practical side and is cheering for them to bring up even more women’s rights policy.