Nurses vote in favor of latest government offer, averting another strike
By Rebecca Howard
Aug. 7 (BusinessDesk) - Nurses have voted in favor of the latest pay offer from the government, staving off further strike action and bring nearly a year of negotiations to an end.
New Zealand Nurses Organisation's industrial services manager Cee Payne said voter turnout was high "with a significant majority in favour." The new offer, the fifth to be on the table, is expected to be worth $520 million.
Nurses walked off the job on July 12 - for the first time in 30 years - after failing to reach an agreement and “we are very proud that the collective voice of NZNO members, was heard throughout the country and drove up investment in the public health system and workforce," said NZNO president Grant Brookes.
The NZNO will now work with district health boards on implementation.
Among other things, immediate attention will be placed on improving safe staffing and "the ability to realise pay equity for public sector nurses and midwives by December 2019 will address the historic undervaluing of work in a profession where the majority of employees are women, laying down a foundation for a much safer and valued career in nursing,” Payne said.
DHB spokesman Jim Green said they will work to rebuild the trust that is key to the team-based approach to patient care.
According to Green, the new agreement acknowledges the value of the wider nursing workforce.
“There are three pay increases of 3 percent – two of which take effect immediately. There’s a third increase next year, as well as two new steps at the top of the nurses and midwives scale that specifically recognise the skill and experience of this group," he said in a statement.
The deal follows an agreement inked last week between the DHBs, the NZNO and the Ministry of Health that was focused on ensuring safe staffing levels for nurses and midwives.
The positive resolution will likely offer some relief to the Labour-led government, which is also dealing with pending strike action from primary school teachers and principals as well as workers at other state entities such as Inland Revenue.
“There is no question that nurses have felt undervalued over recent years. We needed to listen to their concerns and respond in the interests of both nurses and patients," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
She noted, however, that while the settlement will go a long way in addressing nurses' concerns "the government accepts there is still more to be done to better support them. While today represents a conclusion of bargaining it also marks the start of a long-term programme to rebuild our public health system and the status of the nursing profession."