Nurses are to hold national rallies in April seeking public support for a potential 24 hour strike – after rejecting a pay deal that still left new nurses earning $10K less than new police officers.
As expected it was announced today by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation that frustrated nurses have voted to reject the 20 DHBs latest pay offer to the more than 27,000 nurses, midwives and health care assistants covered by the DHB NZNO collective agreement.
Industrial action could now be on the cards – but not for at least eight weeks as national NZNO delegates are not meeting to discuss bargaining strategies, including a possible series of 24 hour national strikes, until April 18.
Cee Payne, NZNO industrial services manager, said that NZNO remains open to meaningful discussion with the DHB employer negotiating team and industrial action would be a last resort. She said the national rallies to be held in early April were to draw attention to nursing distress and to build public support if nurses are in situation they need to take industrial action.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield, a spokesperson for the 20 DHBs said nurses were “highly respected and essential members of the health team and we don’t want them thinking they have to take industrial action to be heard”. He said obviously it was disappointed that NZNO members had rejected its latest pay offer but would be asking for an urgent meeting with NZNO to find a way forward.
NZNO, which has faced some criticism for feeling restrained from speaking out because of the Code of Good Faith clause, has now launched its own #HealthNeedsNursing campaign with a website (www.healthneedsnursing.nz), a “postcard to Ministers” campaign and a the series of national rallies at all major hospital centres to start April 9.
The Nurse Florence team, who launched the successful New Zealand, please hear our voice campaign, said the voting result “lit more fire in us all to carry on with this campaign with the goal of achieving, safe, healthy workplaces”. Nurse Florence also said it would be continuing with its own petition which has 20,000 plus signatures and planned marches on May 12 (International Nurses’ Day).
Payne said it endorsed the #pleasehearourvoice campaign’s role of allowing nurses share their experiences of their working lives. “Our job is to conclude the DHB MECA bargaining – nobody else can do that. So we are not worried (about Nurse Florence) we just hope to be able to mobilise all of the voices as we move forward.”
The offer – a 2 per cent pay rise per year over two years with the carrot of a possible pay equity settlement starting on July next year for the 27,000 nurses, midwives and health care assistants covered by the NZNO DHB collective agreement – was voted on during a series of ratification meetings over the past three weeks. NZNO have indicated that any strike ballot was likely to involve online voting with a back-up postal voting option.
The pay offer would have brought new graduate nurses salary up to $51,447 in 2018 – more than the current opening salary for a primary or secondary school teacher but less than a new graduate police constable ($63,000) or a new graduate nurse in Queensland who receives $67,295. (see full salary comparison table here).
Many nurses have taken to social media in recent months to voice their frustration with the DHBs’ offer including many of them showing readiness to take the first national strike action in nearly 30 years.