NZNO nurses and health care assistants (HCAs) will join colleagues in various professions, and from three other unions, in a 24 hour strike over a breakdown in their collective agreement negotiation with East Coast PHO Ngāti Porou Hauora (NPH). The strike will take place from 7.00am 27 November to 7.00am 28 November 2018.
NZNO, Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku says registered nurses working for NPH earn $14,000 per year less than their colleagues working in district health boards (DHBs) and enrolled nurses working for NPH earn less than HCAs whose wages are covered by the Pay Equity Settlement Act.
Despite this, NPH’s current offer amounts to no more than 2 percent, with some staff being offered no increase at all. Last year staff narrowly voted to accept a 0 percent pay increase but now say they have had enough of being poorly paid and want to be treated fairly and with the respect they deserve.
Rural health nurse Gina Chaffey-Aupouri (Ngāti Porou) says NPH nurses and health care assistants are caring people who are key to addressing the incredibly high health needs in the area.
"We just want to be paid the same as our colleagues working down the road who have the same qualifications and experience as we do," she says.
"It’s just not fair to anybody. We already face so many barriers because we’re away from the main centres and we just can’t attract new staff when they can earn so much more working elsewhere. So we carry on, and we do the extra hours because we’re understaffed. We love and care for our people, but enough is enough and somebody has to stop and listen."
NZNO organiser Christina Couling says the four unions (NZNO, the PSA, FIRST and E tū) want a fair pay increase for their members and a plan from NPH about how it will address stagnating wages and pay inequities between these and other nurses. No plan has been forthcoming despite negotiations having taken place for nearly a year.
"What we have here is another clear case of inequity and underinvestment in rural communities that have a significant proportion of Māori, and people in poverty with high health needs," she says
"It’s fundamentally unjust when a DHB will not give its health providers the funding required to pay nurses at the same rate as nurses working in DHBs - despite them having the same qualifications, expertise and importance. It should not be left to hard-working, dedicated nurses to bear the brunt when finances are tight.