Over 4000 nurses around New Zealand to walk off job over pay disparity

More than 4000 GP clinic, urgent care and Plunket nurses around the country will walk off the job on Thursday as they battle for fairer pay. 

Members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa will take to the streets on Thursday from 10am until 2pm following failed Government negotiations to match nurses' salaries with their colleagues at Te Whatu Ora - Health New Zealand. 

"So Plunket is funded by Te Whatu Ora and we're already underfunded for our contracts," Whānau Āwhina Plunket chief executive Fiona Kingsford told AM on Thursday. 

"So when Te Whatu Ora is in negotiations with their nurses to increase their wages, the funding from Te Whatu Ora to us was not increased."

The workers operate in a range of settings - including mental health, addictions, and aged care.  

Plunket nurses are also among them - and will walk off the job for the first time in 35 years as they strike for fairer pay. 

Kingsford told AM they're already "underfunded by our Government" and decisions in the Beehive will make or break them. 

"Unfortunately, if we were to match the pay parity with Te Whatu Ora that alone would cost us over $9 million just this year," Kingsford told AM fill-in co-host Amanda Gillies. 

"It's simply just not an affordable solution. We're already underfunded by our Government, so it's just not a sustainable ask." 

The Nurses Organisation has warned in some cases nurses at Maori and iwi providers are earning as much as 25 percent less than their Government-employed counterparts. 

Plunket is a national not-for-profit organisation, which is funded by the Government and also relies on fundraising and goodwill to keep them going.

"The expectation is we top that up through goodwill and fundraising, but it's got to a point where we can no longer sustain this," Kingsford said.

"Successive Governments have underfunded not just us, but other healthcare providers such as ourselves, with the expectation that we continue to top these situations up, but we can no longer do the role of Government and fund these essential services." 

Kingsford said the current work environment is "challenging" and COVID-19 has had an impact on that. 

"Our nurses provide in-home visits in terms of their clinical assessments as well as in our clinics, so they're faced with what the struggles and challenges are for every family in terms of what they're going through," she said. 

"So we get to be part of those families and they are faced with not just doing their role, which is supporting the clinical assessments and helping their tamariki through the development years, but also just those challenges that families are going through."

Whānau Āwhina Plunket chief executive Fiona Kingsford said Plunket nurses are walking off the job for the first time in 35 years.
Whānau Āwhina Plunket chief executive Fiona Kingsford said Plunket nurses are walking off the job for the first time in 35 years. Photo credit: AM

Kingsford said any families that had appointments that are affected because of the strike have been contacted to reschedule. 

"There is definitely an understanding, most mums love their Plunket nurses as well, so they understand they have a right to take industrial action," she told AM. 

"One thing that I would like to point out is we do also have our Plunket 24/7 helpline, so although we will have less staff on, that is still available. So if mums and dads are concerned about their pēpi in any way, they can still ring Plunket helpline." 

Watch the full interview with Fiona Kingsford above.