Service workers in tears after New Zealand's DHBs offer pay rises

Over 3000 service workers are in line for a big jump in their salaries - some even getting up to 40 percent more.

Some hospital workers were in tears when they heard they would be getting the first significant pay increase in more than a decade. 

Janet Pihigia's life is about to change; after cleaning at Auckland City Hospital for 10 years, she's about to get a 32 percent pay rise. 

She's currently on $19 an hour. But now, she'll get a staggered increase over the next three years that'll eventually get her $25.50 an hour in 2021. 

"It's like trying to make ends meet. You'll make one end meet then you're left with another area that's, 'Okay, I'll catch up with that one the following week'," Ms Pihigia explained.

"It's sort of like the catch-up game all the way through."

The new deal sets the conditions for about 3500 service workers; generally the lowest-paid workers including cleaners, orderlies, catering and security staff at the country's 20 DHBs. 

Sam Jones from the E tū union says the deal is "a really historic settlement".

"You don't often hear about workers getting 24 to 40 percent over three-year term of a collective agreement.

"Given these are some of the lower paid people in our public health system, the impact for them will be huge."

The flow-on effects are just as significant. 

"Workers now will no longer have to work overtime or pick up extra shifts to make ends meet, meaning more time with their families."

But DHBs will have to find the money out of existing budgets - so does that mean other workers will miss out?  

Health Minister David Clark says that won't happen, and the pay rises are "already budgeted for".

For Ms Pihigia, a decade of frustration is now over. 

"There are times you felt like chucking the towel in, but you persevere - and somewhere along the line there'll be a silver lining for everyone."


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