Allied health workers to strike after PSA rejects 'inadequate' last-minute offer

Health workers will strike next week after the Public Service Association (PSA) rejected the 11th offer from District Health Boards, calling it "completely inadequate".

Ten thousand allied health workers from more than 70 professions will walk off the job on Monday over pay equity, after the last-minute offer to divert the strike was turned down by the PSA bargaining team.

The allied health workforce is a multi-employer agreement made up of health professionals who are not part of the medical, dental or nursing professions. 

Some professions include medical laboratory technicians, pharmacists, occupational therapists, alcohol and drug clinicians and anaesthetic technicians.

They are an integral part of the health system and a spokesperson said they have been overlooked, overworked and undervalued for too long.

Negotiations between the health boards and the union have been going on for 18 months, with the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) earlier this year releasing a confidential report with recommendations for a path forward.

"We made it clear to the employers that if an offer was made that honoured the Employment Relations Authority report, we would recommend it to our members," Will Matthews said. 

"Several Government Ministers have said publicly that they saw a resolution to the dispute through the recommendations of the Authority."

"Yet what we have received today is a kick in the guts."

Matthews said the disregard of the ERA facilitator's recommendations was not only a "moral failing" but an act of "bad faith".

The ERA recommendations have been confidential between negotiating teams, but Matthews said their formal request to the health boards to share them with members was denied.

"We believe this lack of transparency is also in bad faith and can only be intended to keep allied health workers in the dark," the PSA said.

Chief Executive of Hawke's Bay District Health Board and spokesperson for the DHBs on this matter Keriana Brooking said both organisations are keen to address issues of low pay for health workers and reaching an agreement "so we can focus our efforts and energy on resolving the Allied Pay Equity claim for this group".

"We acknowledge bargaining has been protracted and both PSA members and DHBs have been waiting for some time," Brooking said. "DHBs still hope to prevent further action and that the offer being finalised now will result in the lifting of the strike action."

However, the PSA is calling for negotiations to be handed over to HealthNZ and the interim agency as they have lost faith in the Ministry of Health.

Without guaranteed fiar pay the PSA said allied health workers will again vote on sustained strike action through June and beyond the establishment of the new Health NZ.

"The ball is again squarely in the DHB’s court."