Nurses to strike if no improvement on pay, working conditions

Overworked nurses say they'll strike if nothing is done to improve their pay and working conditions.

Union members have until Friday to accept a 2 percent annual salary increase, but many say that's not enough.

Olivia Hammond is a senior nurse in the busiest intensive care unit in the country, working 12 hour shifts at Auckland Hospital.

She says burnout is common.

"I've seen colleagues of mine who've got halfway through a shift and they're just in tears, they've got nothing left to give to our patients and it's not worth it," Ms Hammond explained.

District Health Boards (DHBs) have offered members of the New Zealand Nursing Organisation a 2 percent pay increase - they have until Friday to accept or reject it.

Ms Hammond says it's just not enough.

"Two percent still doesn't meet the technical expertise of nurses working out there."

She says nurses are serious about striking - and it's not a decision they're making lightly.

"I don't want to strike, I can see the effect even of delaying elective surgeries," Ms Hammond told Newshub.

"I don't want that for my patients - I love my patients, I love my job. I'd just like that respect."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says she's aware of the lack of investment in the health sector but says the negotiations are between nurses and DHBs.

"These are talks that did not start when we entered Government; this is a discussion that's been underway for some time."

Teachers are also after a payrise - the New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) is calling for a 16 percent pay rise.

The police collective agreement expires on July 1 and negotiations are underway.

Last year's $2 billion pay equity settlement for care and support workers was historic, but doesn't cover nurses like Ms Hammond.

"A pay increase for nurses is a huge expense for New Zealand - but if you pay a mediocre wage, you're going to get mediocre nurses," she says.

Hundreds of nurses have anonymously shared stories of their working conditions on a Facebook page aimed at drawing public attention to the issue

"Never in my career have I been so saddened, disappointed and disturbed at the way staff and patients are being let down by our DHBs," one reads.

The nursing union says it has avoided such industrial action for decades.

Nurses say it's about more than their salary - they want safer staffing and a review of pay parity to compare what they get with other professions.