The New Zealand Nurses Organisation has rejected its own proposal around pay and worker conditions, Health Minister Andrew Little says.
Earlier this month, the Nurses Organisation union (NZNO) agreed to consider the Government’s pay offer, but it was rejected in a ballot which closed Thursday evening.
The NZNO lifted a notice for a 24-hour strike on July 29-30 so members could consider and vote on an amended offer, but strikes planned for August 19 and September 9-10 will go ahead “unless an acceptable offer is made”.
Little issued a strong statement today in response, while in a rare move also releasing the full details of the pay offer, which is still part of negotiations.
Little said the pay offer, worth $408 million, would put an extra $13,000 over the next year in the pockets of every fulltime employee covered by the collective agreement.
This included lifting base pay-rates by $1800 a year, plus a lump-sum payment of $1200.
It also included an advance on the settlement of the pay-equity claim, a $4000-a-year pay rise and a lump-sum payment of $6000.
Little said he was doing all he could to progress the pay-equity claim, lodged three years ago, as quickly as possible.
“There is nothing – and I need to make this crystal clear – nothing I can do to speed up the process even more,” Little said.
One of the core concerns from nurses had been around safe staffing levels and implementing the Care Capacity Demand Management, announced three years ago.
Little said just 10 of the 20 DHBs had even begun to implement CCDM.
Little said he acknowledged work on this had been slow and part of the latest offer included commitments to enforce CCDM, including conducting a ministerial review.
However, he said the nurses had not provided a better way to address their concerns.
“Let me be clear: the proposal was one they put to the Government. The Nurses Organisation rejected their own proposal.”
Little said the strikes would be “hugely disruptive to public health services, and to the people who need them”.
“The health system is already under pressure from a global pandemic and the winter ‘flu season.
“To nurses I say I remain committed to seeing you are paid what you deserve and have safe conditions to work in – including properly staffing the health system.
“The focus now, however, must be on settling the pay-equity claim, and that is where the Government’s attention will now be.”
The NZNO was not immediately available for comment in response to Little’s comments.
Lead advocate David Wait said earlier 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.”
Nurses were standing up for the future of their profession and wellbeing of New Zealanders, Wait said.
“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.”
The NZNO would continue with negotiation, bargaining and mediation with district health boards (DHBs), Wait said.
“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.”
Whether or not the strikes would go ahead depended on negotiations, Wait said.
In a statement, Dale Oliff – a spokesman for the DHBs – said the offer was worth more than $400 million and it was prepared to start new talks tomorrow morning.
He said the DHBs were surprised by the response.
“The package was a significant increase on the last offer with several initiatives to help address workforce shortages and safe staffing, significant increases on base rates, and lump sums totalling $7200.
“Negotiation involves a degree of realism and compromise, DHBs have shown we’re prepared to move and I’d urge the NZNO and its members to reconsider their position.”
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