Protest as pay rise talks fail
Auckland, July 6, 2020
More than 3400 primary health care nurses, medical receptionists and administrators employed at about 500 practices and accident and medical centres will stop work for two hours on Thursday, July 23, 2020, following the failure of talks on mediation to settle their Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA).
New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) Industrial Advisor Chris Wilson said that the action would be unprecedented in such primary health care workplaces.
She said that it is a clear indication of the frustration that workers feel after eight months of fruitless negotiations.
“It is not surprising that employers have not increased their offer to one that our members could accept because their funding from government is completely inadequate. Employers have been very clear that they also want pay parity with District Health Boards (DHBs) so they can keep their staff and continue delivery of a quality primary health care service,” Ms Wilson said.
Pay disparity with DHB
She said that an experienced nurse covered by the Primary Health Care MECA is currently paid 10.6% less than their DHB colleague with the same qualifications, skills and experience.
“This is completely unjust and undervalues the amazing work these nurses do in providing expert care in the community, demonstrated so clearly in the Covid-19 response. This is not the usual union versus employer dispute,” she said.
According to Ms Wilson, owners, doctors and managers are also disappointed that the government funding for pay parity has not been forthcoming.
“This is despite approaches to ex-Health Minister David Clark, the Ministry of Health and DHB officials by NZNO and the NZ Medical Association and Green Cross Health,” she said.
Report favours nurses
Ms Wilson said that the recently released Health and Disability System Review Report was clear that primary health care nurses should expect pay parity, and that ex-Health Minister David Clark acknowledged that there was a disparity as recently as a month ago.
“Resolving this really comes down to political will, and our members’ patience has just about run out. Budget 2020 put an extra $3.92 billion into DHBs over the next four years, whereas pay parity for PHC nurses would cost a mere $15 million. Last week, $15 million was promised to assist completing the Christchurch Coastal Pathway. Our members are wondering what has to happen for Government to appropriately value them and the Primary Health sector as the frontline of our health service,” Ms Wilson said.
She said that without additional funding, recruitment and retention issues will only be solved by passing additional costs on to the consumers.
“This is not a responsible solution and clearly not in the interests of communities. NZNO will be contacting the Chief Nursing Officer, Director General of Health, relevant Ministers and the Prime Minister this week to make the case again for improved government funding,” Ms Wilson said.