District health boards 'disappointed' nurses will strike after rejecting pay negotiation offer

District health boards 'disappointed' nurses will strike after rejecting pay negotiation offer
Photo credit: Getty Images

District health boards (DHBs) say they're "disappointed" nurses have rejected their second pay negotiation offer and will soon strike.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) announced on Monday that members had "overwhelmingly" voted to reject the offer, which means a strike will go ahead this Wednesday.

Nurses earlier confirmed they would stop work in mid-May, which NZNO said would've given staff a 1.38 percent wage increase. DHBs then gave a last-minute revised pay offer, which members had up until noon on Monday to vote on.

The difference with the revised offer was the inclusion of a $4000 lump sum payment, which was a part payment on back pay that would be owed to members through the pay equity claim.

DHB spokesperson Dale Oliff says their priority now is finishing preparations for Wednesday's strike action.

"Our focus is ensuring patient safety and we've been working with the NZNO on plans to maintain essential hospital service to protect life and prevent disability," she says.

"DHBs will try to minimise disruption with some non-acute and elective procedures deferred where necessary to reduce demand on services and reduce patient numbers as much as possible before the strike."

Patients whose services may be affected by the strike should have been contacted and anyone with questions should contact their DHB.

Oliff also reminded people that emergency and essential services will still be available during the strike.

"It's important that people don't delay seeking medical treatment or going to hospital if the matter is urgent. People can still call 111 for emergencies or an ambulance. They can also visit their GP or local pharmacy or call Healthline on 0800 611 116."

She says once the strike is over, DHBs will resume negotiations with NZNO.

"These talks will be settled by discussion, and we'll be talking to the NZNO about next steps that are likely to include mediation or facilitation. We need to talk to NZNO further about that," Oliff says.

"DHBs recognise the essential role of nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants in caring for New Zealanders and our offer included a range of lump-sum payments and increases to base rates - especially for the lowest paid."

District health boards 'disappointed' nurses will strike after rejecting pay negotiation offer
Photo credit: Getty Images

She adds DHBs anticipate bargaining will continue to focus on pay with their commitment to the wellbeing package, protecting the gains from the last negotiations, and DHBs' assurance to safe staffing.

NZNO lead advocate David Wait said he was pleased with the "exceptionally high" voter turnout in this round of negotiations.

"Members are facing serious nursing workforce issues, with pay rates that do not attract people into the profession or retain the people we have, and staffing levels which stretch them to breaking point, putting them and their patients at risk," he says.

"This second DHB offer has not significantly changed and does not address these issues. Our members are genuinely concerned that nursing shortages would increase if it was accepted, and that standards of care for all in Aotearoa New Zealand would suffer as a result."

Strikes will be held around the country on Wednesday, affecting all public hospitals and DHB facilities.