The EMA is being called on to prove the sacking of Alasdair Thompson today was more than a face-saving exercise.
The board of the Northern Employers and Manufacturers Association (EMA) this afternoon dismissed Thompson as its Chief Executive Officer.
President of the EMA Board Graham Mountfort said the decision relates to media interviews Thompson gave where he linked lower pay for women to extra sick days taken for period pain.
"After having considered this matter for some time the board believes Mr Thompson is no longer able to continue as CEO of the organisation," he said.
"We regret that Alasdair's role with the EMA is ending in this manner, especially considering the contribution he has made over the past 12 years.
"However under the circumstances the board has had to make this difficult decision.
"As this is an employment matter, we do not believe is it appropriate for the EMA to be making further comment at this time."
Thompson told Newstalk ZB last month that there is a gender pay gap, but people only need "to look at who takes the most sick days", to find the reason for it.
"Once a month they have sick problems. Not all women, but some do. They have children, they have to take time off to go home and take leave," he said.
The EMA has refused to comment on a possible golden handshake
for Thompson, but a senior EMA source told ONE News: "Nobody ever
walks away from something like this with nothing."
Despite many politicians and commentators saying the EMA made the right decision, a Close Up poll tonight showed the public has some sympathy for Thompson.
Sixy-four percent of voters did not think Thompson should have been dismissed, while 36% thought it was appropriate. More than 13,000 people voted in the poll.
But a tvnz.co.nz poll on the matter had a more even response.
Fifty four percent of voters though the EMA made the right decision, while 47% thought it was an overreaction.
Sacking not enough
President of the Council of Trade Unions Helen Kelly, who was on the radio panel with Thompson when he made the comments, said she is not claiming victory today.
"The only way that they [the EMA] can truly show that this is not just a face-saving exercise on their part is to now step up on the substantive issue," said Kelly.
Official statistics from 2009 show women's hourly pay is about 12% lower on average than men's.
"The thousands of women that have responded through Facebook and social media and all the other forums, I think are actually in response to what they experience everyday when they go to work," said Kelly.
Green Party spokesperson on women's affairs Catherine Delahunty said Thompson's dismissal was appropriate given the inaccuracy of his claims and his intimidating approach to female journalists.
"The EMA can demonstrate its commitment to pay equity by supporting my members bill and the Human Rights Commission's proposed bill, both of which will make gendered pay rates more transparent," said Delahunty.
She was critical of how long it took the EMA to fire Thompson, saying "it's an indication of the kind of barriers we [women] face in the workplace."
Delahunty said she hoped Thompson "upgrades his ideas on the modern workplace" before making another contribution. But she added: "I don't know that dinosaurs change that quickly."
Bruce Goldsworthy has been appointed acting CEO for the EMA.
Prime Minister John Key said the EMA's move was not surprising.
"In the end that's a decision for the EMA, but I'm not shocked by it."
He said the EMA had to sort through "complex" employment issues and was not surprised by how long the decision took.
Key said last week he has never noticed a difference in the number of sick days that men and women take.
Minister for Women's Affair Hekia Parata said she thinks people will be pleased there has been a resolution.
"As I said at the outset, I think that the remarks were unhelpful, untrue, and inappropriate," she told media today.
"I think that it's been pretty clear from the response that the remarks made were unacceptable to a wide range of people."
But not all politicians supported the decision. Act Party MP Sir Roger Douglas said it was a "sad day" for free speech.
"Mr Thompson's views were clearly offensive to many, but if that is grounds for dismissing him, we may as well become an Iran," Douglas said.
"Those who screeched for Mr Thompson's head and who are now congratulating themselves on their latest trophy would do well to remember Voltaire's 'I disagree with what you say but defend to the death your right to say it.'"
EMA coy on dismissal
EMA spokesperson Gilbert Peterson today refused to talk to ONE News about the circumstances of Thompson's dismissal.
"I think a lot has been written and reported about all this already and there's far more worthy commentators than me to comment on that," Peterson said.
"I would say it's a result of the incident, that's quite clear."
ONE News has been told one reason for the sacking was Thompson's questionable ability to take part in the equal pay debate from now on.
Thompson took leave from his role at the EMA after making the comments, but Peterson also refused to talk about the circumstances of Thompson's leave.
Unions and women's groups have called for the EMA to use the incident to address the gender pay gap.
Peterson said today the EMA would be taking new steps to promote equal pay for equal work.
"A crisis of this nature is an opportunity. We need obviously to affirm what we've always stood for: Equal pay for equal work."
He said the EMA would be open to discussing the issue with
unions, but "not in the heat of the moment".
Click here for a snapshot of Alasdair Thompson's career.
What do you think? Did the EMA make the right decision or is it an overreaction? Have your say on the messageboard below.