Nurses have taken to social media to express frustration at the 20 District Health Boards’ pay offer of six per cent over three years, which goes to the vote from Wednesday.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation negotiators have given the DHBs’ offer a thumbs-up after the change of government saw DHBs improving the initial deal. The DHBs have also agreed to commence separate pay equity talks with the union in February for the about 27,000 nurses, midwives and health care assistants NZNO members covered by the multi-employer collective agreement (MECA).

But the immediate MECA pay rise offer – a two per cent increase, backdated to November 6, for the majority of nurses and midwives covered by the MECA and further two per cent pay rise in August 2018 and August 2019 – has been given a thumbs-down by most of the nurses posting on NZNO Facebook pages.

Other nurses have called for members angry or uncertain about the offer to turn up, ask questions and vote at the ratification meetings that start on Wednesday, particularly as in 2015 only about 30 per cent of members voted in the first round of meetings and an “embarrassing” 15 per cent in the second round.

It is not known whether the Facebook posters reflect the mood of all DHB nurses but many posters are expressing disappointment that the pay offer is at about or below inflation, frustration that growing work pressures and responsibilities on nurses weren’t reflected by the two per cent increase and anger that it wouldn’t reinstate the pay relativity lost by this year’s $2 billion pay equity settlement to care and support workers in the aged care and disability sector.

In the MECA update bulletin posted this week the NZNO negotiators said the 20 DHBs agreeing in principle to start pay equity talks in the new year was the first big step in the process of gaining pay equity.

In a pay equity terms of reference document, tabled by the DHBs’ negotiators on October 11, the DHBs say they would like to work in partnership with NZNO to further explore the level of the current pay equity issue for DHB-employed nurses. The DHB said they were not in complete agreement over some statements in the NZNO equity claim, for example the relationship between the 2005 ‘pay jolt’ settlement and pay equity, but still saw benefit in exploring pay equity further.

The NZNO bulletin was optimistic of a pay equity settlement stating that “we now have a new Government fully committed to pay equity and our aim is to have resolution which will include further remuneration increases as soon as possible”, with the goal of achieving an outcome later in 2018.

“This is a real opportunity to deal with gender equity with a broader brush across a longer term rather than for example pursuing pay parity which would not necessarily deliver equity across all groups in a set of MECA negotiations,” said the negotiators in the NZNO bulletin.

But many nurses posting on Facebook said they were not willing to wait any longer. One commenter, who said she was an NZNO delegate, said she was unhappy with the offer and not happy that negotiators were recommending it. “Feel very conflicted as go home feeling very tired for a profession that I do love but is understaffed and this is a major issue which the DHBS have not addressed properly. I am sick of them playing hardball with our lives.”

Another nurse said gone were the days of considering nursing as a vocational career to help people and the pay should be reflecting not just the work nurses did but keeping up with the ever-growing cost of living.

“We as nurses are working under increasing pressures, we are seeing increasing volumes of patients through Emergency Departments, the ward staff under pressures to move patients on and out to make room. Being called in on days off to cover sickness and roster gaps. More is expected of us with little or no more time to do what is required.”

NZNO President Grant Brookes said he was unable to comment to the media on the social media backlash but in Facebook posts he pointed out that the pay rises in the DHBs’ offer did meet the projected consumer price index increases over the three-year term of the MECA.

When asked about his own pay rise, he pointed out that he had pledged when he stood for the full-time president’s role in 2015 to continue accepting only a DHB staff nurse salary.  “So, like the rest of you, I have not had a pay rise this year. My last increase was 2 per cent in July 2016.”

Lesley Harry, the NZNO industrial advisor and lead negotiator, posted on the official NZNO Facebook page that everyone was entitled to express their opinion but it was important that alternative views were also respected. “The negotiating team has worked hard on your behalf and now it’s up to members to decide.”

The DHBs’ negotiating team spokesperson has not returned Nursing Review calls this week.

Ratification meetings for DHB NZNO members begin on Wednesday November 22 and run until Friday December 8. A full schedule of the meetings can be viewed here.

 

 

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