New Zealand nurses reject second pay negotiation offer, confirm strike action

New Zealand nurses reject second pay negotiation offer, confirm strike action
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Nurses have voted "overwhelmingly" to reject a second pay offer in their current round of negotiations, meaning a strike this week will go ahead.

Nurses earlier confirmed they would stop work in mid-May, which the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) said would've given staff a 1.38 percent wage increase.

DHBs then gave a last-minute revised pay offer.

Voting on that closed at noon on Monday and NZNO lead advocate David Wait says he was pleased with the "exceptionally high" voter turnout.

"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."

The eight-hour strike will go ahead on June 9, affecting all public hospitals and DHB facilities.

Wait says it's "ironic" some DHBs have requested to have more staff the day of the strike so they can still provide life-saving services they would have in their wards on a non-strike day.

"We want the DHBs to be transparent about this being a large-scale problem where staff and patients are regularly put at risk. The DHBs have attempted to respond to this claim, but after years of delays and failed promises, members want to see some accountability on their part."

He adds that what made this rejected offer different 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. This should be settled by the end of the 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," Wait says.

"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."

Wait says NZNO members were resolute and further strike action can't be ruled out.

"It's heart-breaking that nurses and other health workers feel so undervalued that they would choose industrial action. Nobody wants this and the best way for future strikes to be avoided would be through a fair and decent offer," he says.

"We need the Government and the DHBs to come up with a profession-enhancing offer right now that truly recognises the contribution nursing staff make and that ensures the future of nursing for the wellbeing and safety of us all."

On Wednesday, there will be city-wide strikes in Auckland and Wellington as well as strikes in each DHB. A full list is available here.