Public hospital nurses are being asked to give union NZNO a "clear steer" on whether they will accept or reject a 1% pay offer now and 2% in following years.
Nurses at the 20 district health boards start voting this week on the DHBs' offer to New Zealand Nurses Organisation members following nearly six months of negotiations.
Lesley Harry, NZNO industrial advisor said the union negotiators were aware that the DHB offer fell short of the "decent pay rise" that members had called for.
She said NZNO were not recommending members to either accept or reject the deal but were calling on nurses to get out and vote in force so negotiators had a clear mandate to either sign the MECA or attempt to return to the negotiating table.
A DHBs spokesperson said the DHBs did not want to make any comment while staff were considering the offer. The last NZNO ratification meeting will be held on the day of the Budget, May 21, and the final vote count should be known by May 25.
The DHB is offering a 1 per cent pay rise, backdated to when the current multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) expired on March 1, followed by a 2 per cent salary rise on May 1 next year and a 2 per cent rise 14 months later on July 1 2017. The proposed MECA, covering around 25,770 DHB nurses, midwives and health care assistants, would be for more than three years and expire on June 30 2018.
Harry said what would "make or break" the deal only time would tell as while the deal included some improvements, it did not address a number of member's key issues including pay levels, the length of the MECA term and issues around discretionary leave applications.
"What we've been really focussed on is encouraging members to get out so whatever the vote is, that is a substantial vote - that's really important."
She said if members did want the union to go back to the negotiating table it was not known "whether or not there's going to be any ability for the DHBs to move or any willingness to do that".
"We'll assess the level of participation at the meetings, obviously that will have a bearing on what our strategy will be if we are not able to get an improved offer." Strategies could include mediation or discussing some form of industrial action.
Negotiators had reached some agreement around the wording of the Safe Staffing Healthy Workplaces agreement including taking a nationally consistent Care Capacity Demand Management (CCDM) approach, adequate resourcing to progress implementation and timely and transparent responses to staffing level data.
"Certainly our expectations are that there will be significant traction made (in implementing CCDM) over the term of the MECA and we've made that quite clear," said Harry.
The last pay rise for NZNO nurses covered by the MECA was one per cent more than a year ago. The proposed one per cent pay rise for this year is equivalent to less than $500 before tax for a new graduate and $632 for a nurse on step 5 of the pay scale.
The impact of the accumulative pay rises would see the current top of the pay scale RN base salary (without penal rates or overtime) rise from the current $64,163 to $67,423 in July 2017. The new graduate base salary would rise from $47,528 to just under $50,000 over the same three-year time span.
OTHER PARTS OF OFFER
- Increase in all PDRP allowances of $500 from July 1 2015 so allowances will range from $3000 for proficient to $4500 for expert
- No response to Employment Relations Act changes – issue to be referred to Health Sector Relationship Agreement Committee for resolution
- Agreement that mandatory training is not deducted from the 32 hours professional development leave allowed.
- A telephone allowance of $10 per call when rostered on-call