New Zealand midwives are heading into a "make-or-break" pay talk meeting with the government today.
The focus of the meeting will be on a funding model co-designed by midwives and the Ministry of Health, as part of a settlement reached when the College of Midwives dropped an earlier pay equity court challenge against the Ministry.
The College of Midwives described the settlement as a legally-binding certainty that addressed their long-standing concerns, and the government's failure to act on it was a breach of the terms of mediation.
College chief executive Karen Guilliland has hinted at the possibility of starting new legal action over pay equity before a meeting later today with Health Minister David Clark.
Ms Guilliland told Nine to Noon the college believed it had an agreement in principle over the model and was awaiting sign-off, but had since been met with silence.
Documents released under the Official Information Act show that as far back as December last year the Health Ministry was recommending against implementing the funding model.
The documents showed the funding model would cost up to $353 million a year - three times the current funding level, which was considered unaffordable.
It was also likely to impact on wider healthcare funding.
Ms Guilliland said they never expected overnight results, and while community midwives welcomed an 8.9 percent "catch-up" pay increase announced in Budget 2018, it did little to address the gender pay gap.
Ms Guilliland said it was not unrealistic to expect a trebling of funding, as that was what they believed had been agreed upon.
"It was agreed this was what it would cost, and this was what the value of the work that midwifery did.
"You know, people... when they talk about pay equity seem to forget it will require quite a large injection of funds."
Ms Guilliland did not think they exited the earlier legal action too early.
The Human Rights Commission facilitated the mediation, after the historic gender equity case was filed by the New Zealand College of Midwives in 2016.
Ms Guilliland said the action through the Commission was a principled one based on gender discrimination. She said the college thought it would be a quicker process and because it believed the Ministry, it signed up to the agreement.
"Our problem is one of constant reassurances, constant hope, and false promises."
Ms Guilliland said today's meeting was about ensuring faith within the workforce and getting the Minister's backing.