DHB and PSA explore return to bargaining table

DHB and PSA explore return to bargaining table

District Health Board (DHB) bosses are meeting with Public Service Association (PSA) staff today in an attempt to avoid industrial action.

PSA members are proposing to hold three strikes across Auckland's three DHBs next month.

It follows a breakdown in negotiations over a new collective agreement, but high-level discussions today will explore options to return to bargaining.

The agreement covers more than 3000 workers across 52 health professions including, pharmacists, physiotherapists, dieticians and mental health workers.  It doesn't include doctors and nurses.

The DHBs say the one outstanding issue in the bargaining relates to the payment of double-time for working weekends.

"The PSA needs to be up front about the issue in this bargaining. They need to explain to the public why, once again, they're proposing to disrupt services to patients, rather than work constructively toward resolution," said Julie Patterson, chair of the DHBs' Workforce Strategy and Employment Relations Strategy Groups.

In Auckland, staff are currently paid double-time for working weekends.  The DHB is proposing that any new staff will be paid time-and-a-half, like staff in DHBs throughout the rest of New Zealand, while current Auckland staff would continue to be paid double-time.

But the PSA says the DHBs are proposing to cut pay and conditions while not addressing concerns about workloads and resourcing.

"The DHBs want to extend services from five to seven days without extra resources," says PSA National Secretary Erin Polaczuk. "There is already a shortage of qualified staff and our members are already missing breaks, working long, busy shifts and often for free."

If no settlement is reached strike action could go ahead next month, meaning disruption to services.

DHBs are working on a contingency plan while the PSA says it will work with DHBs to maintain life-preserving services.