Nurses & DHBs on heading back to negotiations

Photo: RNZ / Nick Munro.

The nurses and midwives' union and district health boards will be discussing where to from here after failed pay negotiations led to a strike yesterday.

Thousands took to the streets, including nurses and supporters, to protest for better pay and conditions.

The DHBs and New Zealand Nurses Organisation will today discuss a possible further date for negotiations, and listen to feedback from union members.

Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson says the government is totally committed to getting back to the negotiating table, represented by the DHBs.

"Obviously there are some financial constraints in the wake of Covid but we do understand the importance of this workforce and we want to negotiate in good faith," Robertson told First Up.

The pay settlement in 2018 "made a big difference" but the unfortunate reality is that higher pay rates are available in Australia and have been for some time.

"Nursing is a global environment, but we still think the salaries that are offered are competitive along with other working conditions and clearly, obviously, living here in New Zealand.

"That doesn't stop us from knowing we've got to sit down and have a good negotiation and do that in good faith."

Improving conditions just as important as pay - NZNO

NZNO industrial services manager Glenda Alexander told Morning Report conditions and pay need to improve so essential workers don't look to other sectors for a better salary.

"They're kind of interwoven [pay and conditions]. If we don't pay people what they're worth, what the job is worth, they're not going to stay and we're not going to get new people into the nursing workforce."

Nurses and midwives are exhausted and there is a need to attract more people to replace an ageing workforce that is set to retire, Alexander says.

"If we can't improve conditions whereby new nurses come into the system, we're in serious trouble.

"Nurses do their very best at work to not reveal to patients that they're caring for what's really going on but patients see some of that stuff - they see the nurses running from person to person, they note they haven't had breaks."

The union wanted systems that were agreed to in the last bargaining period put into place, including ensuring the right people were on shifts and boosting capacity to respond to demand.

"We want to see that put well in place ... so that our members have surety that when they come to work they are going to have workloads that are manageable," Alexander says.

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone.

DHBs keen to 'close gaps'

Spokesperson for all the DHBs, Jim Green, says they have been making progress with continuous improved offers, but welfare and staffing levels are of still concern to the workers.

"We've made offers around all those areas - we've made a pay rise increase of up to 8 to 12 percent and of course there's the pay equity settlement that will be coming in on top of that as well," he told Morning Report.

"We think we've been able to address many of their requirements and we're looking to see where some of the gaps can be closed by the nurses and the [union] members."

Further negotiations were needed to see how the problems could be resolved, Green says.

Nearly all non-urgent surgery and outpatient clinics had to be postponed yesterday as a result of the eight-hour strike.

"That will take time to work back into the schedule [the elective surgeries], we're of course doing a lot of work to catch up after the time lost last year around Covid, so it'll add to the work we have to do," Green says.

It's difficult for services to operate during the strike, but they managed, he says.

"It's always difficult to manage during a strike and it really took all of the efforts of all of the people who weren't striking - the volunteers, family members, and of course the life-preserving services provided by the union - to get us through that time."


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Why is it?

Posted on 12-06-2021 15:46 | By morepork

That we all know the Nurses deserve a raise and improvement in conditions, and yet they have to fight tooth and nail to get it. We should be recognizing them financially and morally. It should not just be POSSIBLE for Nurses to make a decent living in NZ, it should be EASY!

Nursing in dire straits!

Posted on 10-06-2021 14:56 | By jed

Understaffed, underpaid, and unsafe workplaces. Hospital nursing is in a poor state. Elderly care is far worse though. A few years ago, nurses in retirement homes were on zero hour contracts, minimum wage, with no holiday pay or sick leave. Zero hour contracts are gone. My partner quit the elderly care position a long time ago now, it was too stressful (40 frail residents, 1 nurse). Ratio is 3rd world.

Tom Ranger

Posted on 10-06-2021 12:27 | By Tom Ranger

Agreed. Pay cut for all politicians too as well as cuts to funding their legal defenses and housing costs and special super scheme and ability to hire their friends on obscene contracts working groups etc etc etc. De-fund them. Less govt ...less power to exploit us. Less expenses...less taxes. Keep governance small for a small country.

Spot on!!

Posted on 10-06-2021 11:47 | By The Professor

Absolutely agree with Andrew64. Why should lazy lay-abouts get more money when our Nurses are working hard and under stress, but are struggling to make ends meet. There is something wrong with that picture!! We could also divert some money from the prisons and make those less appealing to the residents. Keep going with the strikes until this Government listen and give you all meaningful pay increases.


Posted on 10-06-2021 11:28 | By Andrew64

Fund the nurse’s (who deserve it) pay rise by scrapping the ridiculous increase to beneficiaries.

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