Nurses feel lied to after promised back pay left out of equity offer

Nurses say they have been left blindsided and feel lied to over the latest pay equity offer which doesn't include the full back pay initially promised.

It comes after years of ongoing pay disputes and protests to eliminate the gender pay gap, all amidst a nursing shortage. 

Michelle May's put on her uniform for eight years. To her, nursing isn't just a job - it's her life. 

"It's definitely a passion. It's something I have worked hard for. I spent many years training, it's about caring for others," May says.

But it's a profession she's lost faith in, especially after the sector's latest pay equity offer.  

"Overall the feelings are of real frustration," May says. "We feel we have been lied to."

Because it's not what they expected. 

One condition of an earlier agreement stated any new salary grades would be backdated to the end of 2019.

That's been scrapped.

Instead, a recognition of past work pro-rated payment is being offered, capped at $10,000. 

One Auckland nurse Newshub has spoken to says she should be owed around five times that if it was backdated in full. 

Calculating full back pay for individual nurses was deemed too complicated and would've delayed the new pay rates by two to three years. 

"Trying to get the pay rates right now seemed to be a better beneficial outcome going forward but of course, that meant the back pay issue that the members are talking about now has been compromised in terms of the full amount they expected to get," New Zealand Nurses Organisation industrial services manager Glenda Alexander says.

She says the offer includes significant pay equity increases affecting 40,000 people. 

"It's actually demonstrated nursing work has been undervalued for many years and now these new pay rates are actually reflective of other male-dominated occupations that get paid more or have been paid more than nurses until now," Alexander says.

In a statement, a spokesperson for all DHBs says the proposed settlement's an important step toward a historic agreement, it includes lump payments and pay increases to achieve pay equity. 

But thousands still want it fully back paid, signing this petition created by May. 

"I feel most nurses would be more than happy to wait to get what was owed to us. especially when it is such a big amount," May says.

Nurses will have the chance to vote on the proposed agreement from April 20.