National | District Health Board

Nurses to strike Wednesday after rejecting latest offer from DHBs

The latest negotiations between the union, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, and district health board have failed after nurses rejected the latest offer, as reported by RNZ.

This comes as thousands of nurses plan to strike tomorrow on June 9, with the NZNurses Organisation saying members voted "overwhelmingly" in favour of the eight-hour strike, which will affect all public hospitals and district health board facilities.

The DHBs said they were disappointed with the outcome of the ballot, but were assuring the public essential services would still be available on the day.

The discussions have been taking place for a number of months, and industrial action was initially settled on in mid-May.

"We had thought that the improved offer that we gave, and the additional money around pay equity would enable a settlement to be reached, but that's proven to be not the case," said their spokesperson, Jim Green.

The strike will start at 11am and end at 7pm tomorrow.

Both nurses and DHBs have agreed to meet after the strike to continue negotiations.

At breaking point

NZNO lead advocate David Wait said members were experiencing staffing levels that"stretch them to breaking point".

"Ironically some DHBs have requested to have more staff on strike day to provide life-preserving services than they would ordinarily have in their wards on a non-strike day. That staff levels are regularly below life-preserving services levels should concern everyone."

The latest offer included a lump sum of $4000, a part payment on back pay that would be owed to members through the pay equity claim, to be settled later this year.

"Members know that lump sum payments do not lift actual rates of pay, which impacts on the long-term issues of a health system that values nurses and their work, attracts new people into the profession and encourages others back from overseas.

"They also find it unfair that they are being asked to wait for the pay equity process when there is uncertainty about when this will happen or what the results will be."

Losing nurses

One union member - a senior nurse at Canterbury DHB who wanted to remain anonymous - said the DHBs needed to re-evaluate.

"They need to find the funds to come up with a fair and decent offer. The government and DHBs need to work together for that.

"Only then can we start actually retaining staff, and attracting staff."

She said the poor pay and poor working conditions were having an impact.

"We're losing so many nurses, not just to Australia, but we're losing them elsewhere.

"We're losing them to other occupations. They're going into teaching, they're going into trades. They're just leaving nursing full-stop."