The other health unions are calling on their members to stick to normal duties to not undermine the planned public hospital strike by members of the nurses’ union NZNO.
Three of the unions currently have their own pay negotiations with the district health boards’ in limbo as they await a settlement of the largest and precedent-setting collective agreement between the New Zealand Nurses Organisation and the 20 DHBs. If facilitation at the close of this week does not resolve the impasse two 24 hour strikes by NZNO nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants are planned with the first on July 5.
The PSA – whose DHB members include allied health, mental health nurses, public health nurses and clerical staff – are advising members that the provision of life preserving services was an arrangement between the DHBs and NZNO and its members should not interfere by agreeing to undertake any work done by NZNO members.
“During the strike action, we advise members to do the job they normally do, carrying out the duties they normally perform – and not to undertake any duties or responsibilities outside their normal work,” said a PSA spokesperson. “We have advised our members not to do anything to undermine the industrial action, and in particular, they should refuse to do the work of striking NZNO members.”
Likewise MERAS (the Midwifery Employee Representation and Advisory Service), the union which represents most of the DHB-employed midwives, said it was advising its members to do their normal jobs only. Caroline Conroy, a MERAS co-leader, said it was fully supportive of NZNO members taking strike action and understood the frustration with the high workloads and minimal pay increases. She said it was also important to clarify that MERAS members, as non-NZNO midwives, were legally unable to join the strike – which had been an issue raised at some maternity units.
The senior doctors’ union, the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), is advising its members that “doctors are not trained as nurses and should not do nursing duties” and their focus should be on patient safety of patients already admitted or admitted due to clinical necessity during the strike.
“If you are asked to work longer hours or to do additional sessions or shifts, it is almost certainly because the DHB expects you to cover for nurses or undertake nurses’ duties,” the ASMS advised in a recent newsletter to members. “In these circumstances, ASMS advises you to politely but firmly decline to undertake such additional duties and refuse to come in.”
“If, however, the additional work you are asked to do falls within the range of medical or surgical duties you might ordinarily do within your scope of practice, and you agree to do these extra hours, sessions or shifts, you should do so for a substantial additional payment.”
It is understood that under the Employment Relations Act, DHBs can ask other employees to undertake the work usually done by striking employees but employees – whether union members or not – have the right to decline to do so.
The five sets of stalled pay talks between the district health boards and three unions representing allied health and technical staff, junior doctors, mental health & public health nurses, DHB clerical staff and midwives cover staff with an annual wage bill of about $1.5 billion.