The final recommendations from the nurses’ pay panel, set up to try and prevent a winter strike, are due to be released a day before the strike ballot closes on Friday.
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation’s district health board nurse, midwife and healthcare assistant members started voting on April 23 in a month-long secret ballot on whether to strike on July 5 and July 12.
The rare move of voting on strike action followed building frustration from stretched nurses who rejected two offers from the 20 DHBs for not reflecting their skills, workloads or the pressures under which nurses are working.
The strike ballot closes at 5pm on Friday. Meanwhile, the Independent Panel set up at the suggestion of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to try and resolve the impasse between NZNO members and the 20 DHBs is expected to report its final recommendations to the DHBs and NZNO on Thursday May 24. Those recommendations are expected to reflect how much of last week’s Budget’s contingency funding has been earmarked for health sector pay.
The next step is that the DHBs will consider the panel recommendations and frame up a revised pay offer for the about 27,000 nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants involved. That offer is expected to be presented to the NZNO bargaining team early next week which will hope it better reflects frustrated nurses’ calls for better pay and safe staffing. Panel chair Margaret Wilson has stressed that the panel recommendations are not binding on either party but would reflect the views of both sides.
NZNO has told its DHB members that – providing the DHBs’ new offer “positively progresses” the issues that led members to reject the last two offers – then the latest offer would be sent to members later that week, with ratification meetings set down for June 5-15.
The results of the strike ballot are expected to be shared with members on Monday May 28 – prior to NZNO deciding whether to put the DHBs’ third offer to a members’ vote.
NZNO industrial advisor Lesley Harry, in the negotiating team’s update to members, said the ballot outcome would – in the event that a revised DHB offer was rejected by members – would determine the next steps.
As an essential service NZNO has to give at least 14 days’ notice to the DHBs prior to taking strike action.
The DHBs started working on a contingency plan for possible strike action shortly after it was announced on March 26 that NZNO’s district health board nurses, midwives and healthcare assistant members had voted to reject the 20 DHBs’ revised pay offer.