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Nurses refuse pay offer

Written By: - Date published: 7:00 am, July 30th, 2021 - 28 comments
Categories: health, health and safety, uncategorized, Unions, workers' rights - Tags:

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

NZNO media release

NZNO members who work in district health boards (DHBs) have voted by clear majority to reject the latest offer in their negotiations with the DHBs, saying it fails to address the chronic and systemic safe staffing issues in a way that would ensure and protect the future of the health system.

The ballot closed at 5pm this afternoon.

Lead Advocate David Wait said that, while the DHBs had made promising moves on pay, the offer contained too many ambiguities.

“Members have been clear from the beginning that their safety at work and the safety of their patients is a priority, and that is where they most deserve certainty.

“Better pay will make nursing more attractive, but it is not clear how the DHBs will be held accountable if they do not provide safe staffing. Nurses don’t want more vague promises that the problem will be fixed in the future – which is what we have received once again.

“For decades nurses, health care assistants, midwives and kaimahi hauora have been given these promises and things are now worse than ever, everywhere.”

He said nurses were making a stand for the long-term future of their profession and the wellbeing of people living in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“This won’t happen until the DHBs put accountability systems in place so nurses know things really will change and that their employers will listen when they feel unsafe at work.”

Wait said that, while a commitment to finalising Pay Equity by 30 November was appreciated, members are being asked again to trust in an outcome that remains uncertain at this point.

“This is just one more uncertainty an area where commitments to have the matter ‘sorted by a certain date’ have consistently not been met. The effective pay equity end date remains 31 December 2019, but the process has taken much longer, so it’s not surprising members’ trust has been worn thin.”

He also said NZNO was committed to carrying on with bargaining and continuing with negotiation and mediation. He said he expected the DHBs to do the same.

“We want the DHBs to come back with an offer that provides certainty over how safe staffing will be addressed. Members are tired of ambiguity.”

NZNO lifted a notice for a 24-hour strike on 29-30 July so members could consider and vote on an amended offer. However, given the outcome of the ratification ballot, he said strikes planned for 19 August (8 hours) and 9-10 September (24 hours) will go ahead unless an acceptable offer is made.

“Whether or not they happen will depend on our continued negotiations, which NZNO remains committed to.”

NZNO has more than 52,000 members; around 32,000 work for DHBs.

28 comments on “Nurses refuse pay offer ”

  1. gsays 1

    Thanks for putting this up.

    While the negotiations include pay, the staffing levels, patient and nurse safety and the future of nursing are more important to a lot of nurses.

    The DHBs are being a bit shady mixing in the pay parity provisions with the current wage offers.

    It is only a matter of time before the two figures get jumbled, added and become a mantra – "Nurses refuse $X increase…"

    The pay parity 'promises' were mingled, at the start of the renewed proposal, hardly cricket.

    Meanwhile locally, the Health and Safety reps lifted the PIN Notice after assurances from management. When the staff were briefed on this, it was revealed to be more of the same empty promises.

    Imagine a rainbow generator powered by unicorn farts and it's close to what was promised.

    Management said their hands were tied as to hospital size, planning etc. When does the governance (The Board) come into scrutiny?

    It is common knowledge a recent past hospital leader had squirreled away many millions for a future hospital only to have that squandered away by a new CEO, largely to outside service contractors.

    • tc 1.1

      "…DHBs are being a bit shady…." sums it all up.

      A self serving layer that's been enabled and allowed to do some of this shit with a nod and a wink from certain quarters.

      Little's on solid ground removing this layer IMO, Coleman's appointment to a certain DHB is a great example of why this has to be changed.

  2. Bruce 2

    I think they just need to do away with negotiating honestly this govt seems pretty gullible and has plenty of money for smart negoiaters.

    The owner of the Bluff Aluminium smelter noted in its results statement released late yesterday how successful its bluff to shut down the smelter late last year had been.


    These guys got away with quite a few millions.

  3. alwyn 3

    It probably isn't going to matter anyway.

    If all the doctors who are stuck in the queue to get residency give up and leave New Zealand we won't need nurses in the DHBs. With a shortage of doctors we won't need nurses there will we?

    What is it about this Government that they can't sort out the priority lists for people to get residency. Must this shambles continue indefinitely?


    • Incognito 3.1

      Of course, it still matters!

      Just because the borders are closed to a few people waiting to get in, such as RSE workers and over 1,000 extra nurses and doctors and thousands of Ozzie tourists wanting to go skiing here, it doesn’t mean that the whole healthcare sector is going belly-up and all 52,000 NZNO members or 32,000 who work for DHBs should be fired and sent home.

      Must this shambolic commenting continue indefinitely?

  4. pat 4

    Pay and conditions for nurses have been poor for a long time in NZ (as in many sectors) but healthcare is an area where the spend will always be insufficient….or rationed.

    How much resource do we devote to health and if more what are we prepared to forgo?

    • Sabine 4.1

      Happy to forgo the Olympics, Americas Cup, bike bridges to nowhere, MP's travel perks, MP's housing allowance, etc in order to have cancer tests, cancer treatments and ICU beds for sick kids, and decent pay and staffing levels for the nurses, nurse aids, orderlies etc in our hospitals.

      But then, surely we all can afford private insurance to get healthcare in OZ.

      • Brendan Waugh 4.1.1

        My feelings exactly.

        It is odd that politicians often offer x more police for their election campaigns or $y for health. But they don't look at things like, not having doctors work insane shifts, or the level of nursing care needed.

        What's more you would even have the Taxpayers Union* agreeing with you over the Cup, Olympics and bike bridge.

        *lobby group.

    • AB 4.2

      "How much resource do we devote to health and if more what are we prepared to forgo?"

      An impossible dilemma, because people want both good healthcare and all the other stuff too, and no tax increases. One possible way out of it might be reducing the total per capita healthcare burden through prevention. This means seriously tackling things like obesity and smoking, regulating our sugar and fat filled food environment, early detection of cancers through national screening programmes, providing interventions that are initially expensive but prevent more costly long-term need (e.g. my experience with SDR for kids with CP), protecting mental health through secure housing and financial security, etc. It's possible of course that this just makes people live longer and the health costs are simply delayed till an older age, so it needs modelling by the health economists. And then there's the problem that the up-front costs of trying this are probably massive, while the benefits are not fully experienced for a generation.

      • pat 4.2.1

        It is indeed a difficult problem and not just in monetary terms….what proportion of our workforce can we devote to health?….currently it is approaching 10% yet it is understaffed and other industries are crying shortage.

        And like all endeavours in NZ it is majorly impacted by our economic model which has promoted ridiculously expensive housing that sucks resources (monetary and human) away from productive endeavour while creating worse health outcomes and placing emigration pressures on the resources we currently have.

        It all points to a needed complete recalibration of how we operate as a society rather than a simple increase in resources for one segment of our workforce.

  5. Chris 5

    "Nurses don’t want more vague promises that the problem will be fixed in the future – which is what we have received once again…

    “For decades nurses, health care assistants, midwives and kaimahi hauora have been given these promises and things are now worse than ever, everywhere.”

    This is such a standard government response right across the board. It's great to see someone finally saying 'no, we don't be believe you, sort it out now.' We need more of this.

  6. Pete 6

    No worries. Over months I've read stuff from National. Nurses have it hard, and teachers, so when National get in in 2023 all be be put right.

  7. Anne 7

    I think it is time the leaders of the current nurses’ protests need to leave the alternate planet they're living on and return to the real planet:


    "Little said he wanted to be very clear that the proposal put to the nurses, was one proposed by the unions, so the deal nurses have rejected is one put to them by their own union. (My bold)

    He said he has heard the complaints of nurses including low staffing and increasing demands on them……

    He said the latest pay offer would have put an extra $13,000 over the next year alone into the pockets of every full-time employee covered by the collective agreement.”

    Edit: before commenters start jumping up and down on their soap box, please read the full article.

    • Forget now 7.1

      I did read that article earlier Anne, it's pretty clear that the offer differs from the original proposal:

      He said the original proposal for referring every incidence of short staffing to the Employment Relations Authority or Employment Court would take months to process for each complaints, would be impractical and would not fix the problem

      But then many nurses do not feel that the NZNO represents their interests that well. The rationale I have heard is that negotiators pay is linked to nurse's pay rather than working conditions – though I don't know how accurate that is (not entirely unbiased sources).

      • McFlock 7.1.1

        I quite liked the bit where he acknowledged safe staffing levels weren't always being met, but that taking them to the ERA/employment court over it wasn't necessary because it was "already enforceable" (apparently via CCDM due for completion 30 June this year).

        So if it happens from this month on, it's an "enforcement failure".

        • Forget now

          Expecting nurses to trust the DHBs on anything (especially enforcement of working conditions) is a bit futile though. Especially since they are unlikely to be around much longer.

          "While the offer that the DHBs put forward made commitments to do both of those things, I think it's the fact that we've had these commitments in the past and that they've not been delivered on probably led members to the decision they've made."

          Wait said there have been recent cases where hospitals have been operating at 120 percent of their capacity which has an impact on nurses and patient care.

          "You know after years and years of wanting to have safe staffing addressed and having these commitments, our members are really taking a stand for the profession."


    • gsays 7.2

      Thanks Anne, you confirmed what I anticipated.

      Little, conflating the two issues with the oft repeated promise of 'hoping' to settling pay disparity discussions.

      What planet do you need to be on to have decent, safe staffing levels?

      • Anne 7.2.1

        Setting aside some local bureaucracies, can you name a single public entity that has sufficient staff levels these days? No you can't because there isn't any.

        And you can place the blame fair and square on successive governments since 1984 when the neoliberal agenda was first introduced. The next step is to recognise that changing 35 plus years of one faulty system of government to another is an almighty task and will take around 10 years to fulfil. In the meantime government entities just have to make do with what can be achieved which is still one hell of a lot better than a few years ago.

        • gsays

          Not much issue with most of that, apart from yr conclusion of just having to make-do.

          Doesn't detract from Little not playing with a straight bat.

        • Herodotus

          And Andrew Little admits that what was agreed 3 years ago between DHB's and nurses have yet to be fully honoured (55 secs in ). How is that for good faith ?? Cannot even do what was agreed then and you want the nurses to accept this new agreement that the government is playing hard ball. Remember a few months ago what was offer was the best and there was no more money, so now there is some more how can nurses trust the minister. So Little comments that strikes will be disruptive ? Did he not that long ago work in the union movement and now he sees this. Open your eyes if this was a National government many here would be up in arms on how the nurses have been treated so poorly, but as it is a Labour govt we can accept this treatment.


    • pat 7.3

      It appears Mr Little is incorrect…the proposal came from the DHBs with gov approval

  8. Rupert 8

    How much are these slave labourers paid?

    On the current offer applying at 02/08/2021 with a three year nursing degree

    after 6 years in the workforce

    $83,186 + (for at least 50% a PDRP add on to base rate) $3000 = $86,186

    [$41.32per hr]

    assume a modest 5% premium for 1 in 5 shifts/weekends being worked that gives

    $90,495 a year

    • Forget now 8.1

      Less than Australia; Rupert – which will become an issue again when the borders reopen. These are health professionals (often with postgraduate training) being expected to work in nonprofessional conditions. I have posted this link before, but it would have been a month ago (and maybe not even on this site). This accompanying video line is apt; "why is safe staffing a part of employment negotiations? It should be a given" (by any halfway competent health management and funding structure).

      As someone with ongoing health issues, I would really prefer not to be attended by exhausted and overworked nurses. Especially during a pandemic, when their hard-earned skills are much in demand elsewhere.

      "I am earning triple here than what I was at home for a quarter of the work," they say.

      In the Australian state the Kiwi nurse has moved to, there are ratios set for how many patients a nurse can care for at one time. Where the nurse is working currently, they can only care for a maximum of four patients during a day or afternoon shift. On a night shift, this number rises to seven.

      "In New Zealand, these are not set, with one nurse often having to care for five or six patients in morning and afternoon," they say.

      A nurse working on a night shift in New Zealand can often be caring for 10 or 11 patients.


    • Unicus 8.2

      Absolutely over indulged brats

      Their fickle commitment to their profession has created the most significant weakness in our public health system . Over qualified and overpaid for the job they are needed for they won’t lower themselves to deliver the basic needs of patient care

      Nurses trotting out the poor little. saintly me profile to gouge more money out of an already overstretched system then flitting off to Royal Melbourne. for a stint on Aussie pay rates has become something of a tired joke among other health professionals

      It is the NZO that bears sole responsibility for the nursing shortage and for the declining respect New Zealands public has for the profession

  9. georgecom 9

    A few things worth pointing out.

    An increase to baseline pay scales for the nursing team (do not forget this includes midwives and health care assistants, not just nurses). This should be seen in the light of Grant Robertsons ill judged comments about a 'pay freeze; for the public sector, although he didn't quite use those terms. That comments of his was pretty much doomed the moment it left his mouth.

    Pay Equity is about how much historically the nursing team is underpaid because it is a predominantly female workforce. How much higher pay rates would be if it were a predominantly male workforce. There have been very few PE settlements in NZ, these are not simple wave a magic wand exercises, to do it properly takes time. That may be little comfort for people who express displeasure at the length of time it takes, how a person perceives things can often be different from what takes place or the reasons it must be so. You can do things properly or you can do it "close enough is good enough". Ask a theatre nurse how long a heart bypass takes and then ask them what the health outcome would be if the surgeon did it in 2/3s the time.

    A baseline pay increase and PE are being run together at present. In a sense Andrew Little has "pulled forward" some of the PE pay offer and put it on the table now, a down payment, with the remainder delivered when final calculations are done. I myself would have done exactly the same were I in his shoes, the question might be the quantum of the PE 'down payment'. How much is sufficient for the Nursing team to settle their current pay demands.

    One way to look at this is as follows. PE is a historical under payment, a base line pay increase is about things like inflation, recruitment and retention and how people feel in their job. It is often expressed in terms of fairness, a "fair pay increase". Had PE been delivered 10 or 20 years ago, and is now a historical fact, what would a majority of Nurses/Midwives/Health Care Assistants feel they need in terms of a base line pay increase to be satisfied.

    PE will be back dates to start from December 2019. I am not saying it will be done in one hit, other PE settlements had phased pay increases in tranches, however the date for the start of PE payments in the end of 2019.

    • georgecom 9.1

      PE will be back dates to start from December 2019. I am not saying it will be done in one hit, other PE settlements had phased pay increases in tranches, however the date for the start of PE payments in the end of 2019. I mentioned above what would be the case if PE had been implemented years ago. It is interesting to note a few things on that matter. PE legislation was introduced in the dying days of the 1984-90 Labour Government. A PE unit was set up by the Clark Labour government. Both were subsequently dismantled by the succeeding Government. I will let readers figure out who those Governments were.

      Safe staffing is a different matter. A decent pay increase will make some people decide they do not need to move to Australia or retirement, it will help stanch the loss of nurses/midwives/health care assistants out of DHB's. It will also encourage more people to consider training for that career. It will not magically conjure up thousands of warm bodies to flood our hospitals with 'shovel ready' health professionals. The time to address that problem was probably 6-8 years ago. Again I will let readers figure out who was in Government back then.

  10. Jenny how to get there 10

    If you have been to hospital lately you can't help but notice the large number of migrant workers. If you talk to them, most will admit to being on temporary work visas.

    To address the nursing shortage the government could issue a blanket order giving all health workers and carers on temporary work visas trapped here and overseas by the border closures, permanent residency, starting immediately. All health workers trapped overseas by the border closures should be moved to the top of the MIQ list for repatriation.

    This sort of thing must stop.

    Covid 19 coronavirus: Young regional GP with 1300 patients leaves New Zealand following residency limbo

    29 Jul, 2021 09:23 AM

    Ōtaki Medical Centre chief executive Kiwa Raureti said Richards had been a skilled GP and "conscientious" team player, with a total of 1354 patients registered to him….

    ……He said Richards and his partner had left because without a clear path to residency, they could not see a future in New Zealand.


  11. Forget now 11

    Little's grandstanding didn't help, hopefully he has something in reserve:

    Nurses have formally declared their intention to strike later this month… for eight hours on 19 August…

    The NZNO lifted a notice for a 24-hour strike on 29-30 July so members could consider and vote on an amended offer, but strikes planned for 19 August and 9-10 September will go ahead "unless an acceptable offer is made".


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