Hundreds of healthcare workers are taking to the streets of Auckland today as thousands strike across the country over pay.
Ten thousand allied health workers from more than 70 professions walked off the job on Monday over pay equity. It comes after a last-minute offer to divert the strike was turned down by their union - the Public Service Association (PSA).
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.
Hundreds of healthcare workers joined the march in Auckland on Monday with others planned across Aotearoa.
Marchers could be seen holding signs saying, "Thank yous don't pay the bills" and "overworked, understaffed, underpaid".
"Value social workers," another sign read.
Another called on Health Minister Andrew Little to take action.
"Andrew, we want action not words."
"Allied health is essential," another read.
It comes after an allied health worker told AM last week he is working two jobs just to get by and would make more as a manager at KFC than he does in his critical hospital role.
"I have been in the DHB for 12 years. I am just making $25.40 an hour, whereas a shift supervisor at KFC makes $27 an hour," Steve Grant told AM on Friday.
Grant, a sterile sciences technician, said his department is one of the lowest-paid. Grant and his colleagues process medical equipment and instruments in theatres to make sure they are ready for the next operation and won't infect the next patient.
Those at the top of the department "get paid less than at KFC" and trainees get barely above minimum wage, he said.
Grant works a second job as security at a bar to get by, which he says pays a better hourly rate than his hospital role. People in his department also work overtime "just to make ends meet".
PSA organiser Will Matthews told AM on Friday it's unbelievable pay negotiations got to this point.
"Frankly, it is unbelievable that we are now at this stage after 18 months. Our message, not only to the DHBs but the Ministry of Health, is that six weeks out from generational health reforms coming into effect on July 1, they need to consider what they want their legacy to be," he said.
"Is it those generational health reforms or is it being badly exposed on their treatment of the same workers who have just shepherded us through two years of a COVID-19 crisis."
Last week 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."