Taking on unemployed new graduates and a better pay offer could all help ease the pressure on nurses before winter, says NZNO’s industrial services manager Cee Payne.
Payne was speaking in response to the 20 District Health Boards’ spokesperson Dr Ashley Bloomfield saying he understood nurses on the ward were under pressure and he sensed nurses were wanting a ‘clear plan’ to relieve that immediate pressure with winter on the way.
Both were speaking prior to Tuesday’s meeting between bargaining representatives of the 20 DHBs and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, that was held at short notice to discuss initial thoughts on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s suggestion of an independently chaired panel to help resolve the pay talks stalemate without industrial action. Neither side would comment on the outcome of that meeting today or when a future meeting will be held.
Speaking prior to Tuesday’s meeting Payne said to resolve the two major issues for nurses – the call for better pay and addressing safe staffing concerns – there needed to be a greater investment of funding so a settlement could be reached
She said to relieve the immediate pressure one solution was better pay to help keep existing nurses in the workforce, stop them moving to Australia and incentivise part-time nurses to feel it was worthwhile taking on extra shifts.
“We have a lot of part-time nurses in New Zealand and when it is really stressful what happens is they withdraw from hours as they need recovery time. So it’s about attracting our own nurses back to working some additional hours as there is capacity from within our own workforce but they need to be incentivised to do that.” She acknowledged there was also the risk that a pay increase might see some nurses drop hours. But added that better pay
The other action was employing the large number of unemployed new graduate nurses still seeking new graduate positions within DHBs. “We’ve got trained nurses left to languish on the sideline,” said Payne. Plus looking to recruit additional experienced nurses with some DHBs looking to recruit nurses back across the Tasman.
Payne that NZNO had already scheduled a bargaining strategy day for today (March 28) with NZNO staff, to be followed by a DHB national delegates meeting in mid-April which would make the final decision on whether to pursue a strike ballot.
“We will see where we are in relation to the bargaining at that point of time,” said Payne. She said DHB members at present wanted the union to hold a strike ballot and the union did not want to step away from a back-up strategy for settling the agreement if the Prime Minister’s suggested process did not succeed. If the go-head was given for a strike ballot in mid-April then any resulting strike action is unlikely to occur until about a month or more after voting begins.
Bloomfield, speaking prior to Tuesday’s meeting said that the DHBs were anticipating that strike action wouldn’t happen because NZN0 had expressed “their strong preference to have the deal settled” and that “industrial action – in their words and I agree – is a last resort”.
But he said in the meantime the DHBs would be entering into detailed contingency planning in the event there was industrial action and would be working with NZNO to determine what life-preserving services would continue to be offered by nurses during any strike action.