Nurses should be paid more | The Jackal

8 Jul 2021

Nurses should be paid more

If you’ve ever had to spend any time in a hospital, you’ll know that nurses are some of the hardest working and most dedicated people in New Zealand. Their jobs aren't exactly easy either.

Not only does their profession require long, demanding and often unusual hours, Kiwi nurses are being inadequately compensated especially in comparison to their comrades across the ditch.

So when Kiwi nurses say that they’re going to strike again if their pay and conditions don’t finally improve, then everyone should support them to put pressure on the DHBs and the Government to do the right thing.

Yesterday, Stuff reported:

Nurses will take part in multiple strikes unless deal made

Nurses will walk off the job for 24 hours on July 29 in the first of three strikes – unless a resolution to protracted employment negotiations with district health boards (DHBs) can be reached before then.

A majority of New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) members supported a ballot for three strikes: for 24 hours on July 29, eight hours on August 19, and 24 hours on September 9.

NZNO lead advocate David Wait said members clearly remained resolute about ongoing strike action to gain the recognition and working conditions that would ensure nursing remains a viable profession.


DHBs spokeswoman Dale Oliff said the DHBs were aiming to prevent the strikes and believed they could make an offer “to settle the pay talks”.

“We’re continuing to work on a range of options and will be working with the union again this week to progress those discussions before the DHB and NZNO bargaining teams get back together with the mediator next week.”

NZNO representatives and the country’s DHBs returned to mediation last Wednesday and Thursday following a nationwide eight-hour strike on June 9.

It’s not as if the DHBs cannot afford to increase nurses take home pay either. All they would need to do is cut a bit more of the chaff from upper management for instance. It's therefore not an either or situation between increasing benefits and paying nurses properly, because with our crown accounts in the black, the Government can actually afford to do both.

Oliff said a 24-hour strike would have a “significant impact on hospital services”.

Wait said the DHBs seemed willing to actively seek a solution.

“Progress has been made in our discussions and that has given us some hope a resolution can be found around pay and safe staffing.”

The current collective agreement – covering nurses, midwives and health care assistants (HCAs) employed by DHBs – expired in June 2020 and negotiations for a new one had now been going for more than a year.

The NZNO brought 65 claims to the bargaining process, which included a significant pay increase for all members, measures to ensure DHBs carried out safe staffing practices, and better support for wellbeing including increased sick leave, parental leave payments, and ACC payments for injuries.

An entire year for pay negotiations is far too long. In my opinion the Minister should have stepped in ages ago to ensure that these talks weren’t overly protracted. To save face, the Labour led Government must now ensure that pay negotiations don’t once again stall because of penny-pinching DHBs.

The claims included a 17 per cent pay increase, with an immediate 10 per cent bump to bring pay for DHB HCAs – who receive the lowest pay under the collective agreement – in line with those working in aged-residential care.

But other claims were made to increase rates by the same margin for all members “to help to attract and retain people within the profession” and “to address the disincentive for nurses to take on senior roles”.

NZNO members voted to strike for eight hours on June 9 after rejecting the third DHB offer in May.

The DHBs offer included different pay increases for different groups of members. Proposed increases ranged from 0.9 to 1.2 per cent for senior nurses, and 5.2 to 12.2 per cent for HCAs.

A lump sum payment of $4000 was offered in lieu of settlement for a separate pay equity claim “in recognition of the work done to date and the time it is taking to settle the claim”.

The DHBs previous offer was clearly inadequate! What they really should be offering is at least pay parity with other similar professions AND a lump sum payment to account for their heels dragging on the ground for so long.

The DHBs offer acknowledged the delay in progress over the pay equity settlement and that nurses had been “subject to historical sex-based undervaluation”. It was expected the process would take another six months.

Minister of Health Andrew Little said on Tuesday he had asked officials to speed up progress on the pay equity settlement as the Queensland Government had launched an advertising campaign aimed at attracting New Zealand nurses for its health service.

The thing is that we need our well-trained nurses so that New Zealand is prepared for a worse case Covid-19 scenario. What if for instance the Delta variant gets lose in Aotearoa? In that case we'll need as many of our locally trained medical professionals here to ensure that lives aren’t needlessly lost.

New Zealand has some of the most sought after nurses in the world because our training is second to none, and without proper pay or improved conditions, many excellent nurses will simply continue to be lured overseas. 

So let’s see the DHBs and the Government put their money where their mouths are...and let's see our nurses being paid properly. Because without these locally trained professionals staying in Gods own, the land of the long white cloud is pretty much akin to a sitting duck.