Source: New Zealand Nurses Organisation
3200 Primary Health Care (PHC) nurses and staff members employed in more than 500 general practices and accident and medical centres will commence voting today on a second round of strike action. Two 24 hour strikes two weeks apart on Monday 9 November and Monday 23 November have been proposed.
This follows two national rounds of stop work meetings and a one day strike on 3 September.
NZNO Industrial Advisor Chris Wilson said that it was positive to finally hear from the Ministry of Health and DHB representatives that, jointly with employers, there is now a commitment to pay parity in the PHC MECA, particularly after one year of extensive lobbying. However, she said this was not evident at the negotiations that followed on 28 September.
Consequently, at stop work meetings on 30 September, NZNO members overwhelmingly passed a resolution to commence a ballot for further industrial action if, by 14 October, additional funding could not be allocated to allow negotiations to resume.
This timeframe was proposed in good faith to allow for a resolution without further disruption to PHC services. Despite this, Ms Wilson says there has been no progress to enable a return to the negotiating table.
“It is frustrating and disappointing that we have to take this step. Funders and the Government must join with the employers of this workforce and act with urgency to appropriately value their primary health care workforce and halt the staff recruitment and retention issues plaguing the sector.
“We are constantly hearing about nurses who have left to work outside Primary Health Care and that’s because of the 10.6 percent pay parity gap, not because they are not committed to the PHC sector.”
Ms Wilson said this crisis scenario can be avoided but only through commitment to an urgent resolution.
“Just about every day we hear of new funding being provided for other matters. It’s not okay to say that pay parity is a recognised issue, and then to simply fob our members off in terms of urgency to resolve the matter.”
NZNO wrote an open letter to the Prime Minster on 6 October saying that in this International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife she has the chance to recognise the value of all nurses and midwives and those who support their work.
Individual NZNO members were also encouraged to write to Ms Ardern about their concerns, and extracts from those letters are included below.
“We were recently recruiting for a nurse in our urgent care service and only received one applicant because we are offering a pay rate of 10.6% less than the DHB.”
“I have worked for 16 years in PHC having previously worked as a neonatal intensivist for 14 years and I can assure you I work as hard in PHC.”
“I do everything to prevent patients having to be referred to secondary and tertiary services which cost more.”
“We are leaving this profession for lack of recognition in what we do. How will practice nursing survive if the pay isn’t there to recruit and retain?”
“At least acknowledge our struggles and show some respect and dignity to all the highly trained nurses who make a huge difference in the health of the community.”
“The fact we are paid 10.6 percent less demeans us as a nurses and makes us feel inadequate when our roles are crucial in reducing the patient flow and effect on DHB workers by keeping patients out of [hospitals].”
“$7,600 base pay less per year than my DHB colleagues means I don’t have the same opportunities to support my whānau, yet I am equally qualified and skilled.”