National nursing strike looms: ’People are fed up’

A nurses' march held back in May. File photo.

As the prospect of the first national nursing strike in 30 years looms, nurses believe they have the public's support - despite rejecting a half a billion dollar pay offer.

Hospitals could be left with a skeleton staff as nurses gear up to walk off the job next month. And while nurses are fearful of leaving their patients with limited care, they feel they have been left no choice.

The latest offer includes increases of between nine and 15 percent to be rolled out over 18 months.

It nearly doubles the offer from DHBs in February and is worth more than half a billion dollars but nurses say the benefits haven't been spread across the sector.

Kathleen, who has worked as a nurse for eight years, says she would have benefited from the DHBs' offer of a 15 percent pay rise.

But, she says the deal would leave junior colleagues in the cold.

"It wasn't a great pay rise for them and even if we had got that, they would have still gone looking overseas for more money."

Many young nurses she worked with have contemplated moving to Australia to earn enough money to buy a home in New Zealand, she says.

Much of the public did not understand what extreme pressure nurses were under, says Kathleen, until they entered a hospital.

"We are always missing lunch-breaks, on our feet for eight hours a day, doing shift work - it's exhausting."

Kathleen works almost every weekend, which limits any social life.

She says nurses were also regularly abused and attacked while working.

"We get yelled at all the time, I was kicked yesterday.

"People are fed up. We have a degree and a student loan, we want to live a comfortable life and not be living pay cheque to pay cheque."

Kathleen says patients had been overwhelmingly supportive of the proposed strike action - the first national nursing strike since 1989.

Others, who were not patients, tended to be less supportive, she said, adding that some thought rejecting a 15 percent pay rise was greedy.

But they did not realise how long it had been since nurses had a pay rise, she says.

All elective and non-urgent services would stop during the strike, leaving just emergency care intact.

Nurses would feel nervous leaving their patients for a day but striking might be their only remaining option, says Kathleen.

Hawke's Bay Hospital emergency department doctor Scott Boyes says nurses were vital to making hospitals run smoothly.

A lot of the efficiencies in the services would be tested during their strike, he said, but their non-nursing colleagues supported them.

A strike of such magnitude has been a long time coming, he says.

"There's ever increasing demand, the patients are more complex, the hours they work are very strenuous."

DHBs spokesperson Helen Mason says there was no more money in the kitty to give nurses, but she said nurses were highly valued and the current offer represented that.

Helen says the offer they had received was higher than offers made to other workforces. "Which I think really recognises the special workforce and the contribution that they make. I think that half a billion dollars for this workforce is a very, very good deal."

Health Minister David Clark was disappointed nurses rejected the offer but says the government is committed to funding 500 extra nurses regardless of the settlement outcome.

The two proposed 24-hour strikes are scheduled to take place on 5 and 12 July.

In the meantime, the union is taking members' feedback to the DHB on Monday to enter into urgent talks and there will be a last-ditch effort to resolve the dispute and avert strike action.

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For goodness sake!

Posted on 20-06-2018 09:20 | By simple.really

Pay them the same as teachers! Used to be the case but successive governments have stopped nursing in its tracks. Maybe because they consider it a weak female career?? Certainly not the case these days. Both jobs take 3 years training do why the discrepancy? And of course nurses are expected to do shift work and anti social hours with only 4 weeks annual leave per year.


Posted on 19-06-2018 19:27 | By groutby

.......why so bitter mate?...would you care to explain as to your thoughts?..seems a very sad way to look at the profession but if we have all missed something, perhaps you could enlighten us...


Posted on 19-06-2018 17:34 | By astex

Obviously you know absolutely nothing about a nurses job. Take time to talk to anyone that has been in a hospital and you will realize that what you say is B.S. or even better sign up as a volunteer at the hospital and actually help out.


Posted on 19-06-2018 15:44 | By

Now we have a government who is more people orientated, everyone is wanting what they haven’t had for the past 9 years. Time for the big bosses and members of "the club" to get real.

Young people, do not choose nursing!

Posted on 19-06-2018 13:09 | By jed

The pay is rubbish, shift work sucks, and you will be under unbelievable stress. And, you’ll never afford a house or be able to raise a family comfortably on your income. Even with the pay rise they are requesting, it will mean an effective pay decrease over the long term and only closes half the gap with teachers (who get 10 weeks annual leave).


Posted on 19-06-2018 09:47 | By Merlin

If the previous Government had not screwed them in their nine years we would not have got to this situation.First strike notice of intention for 30 years tells you something.

It's the most vulnerable public they will punish

Posted on 19-06-2018 09:32 | By tgacentral

Nurses are simply leveraging the health of our most vulnerable citizens for a personal pay dispute after turning down a half billion dollar offer. Not sure where they think more money will come from but they are willing to bet the public’s wellbeing on it. Definitely don’t have my support.


Posted on 19-06-2018 07:53 | By maildrop

8 hours a day on your feet, wandering about actively avoiding doing any work. Sounds awful.

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