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DHBs Break Down Negotiations Over Nurses' Pay

NZNO Calls For Cool Heads as DHBs Break Down Negotiations Over Nurses ’ and Midwives’ Pay

NZNO has responded to the breaking down of pay negotiations by the country’s 21 DHBs today, saying it believes there is still time to avoid national industrial action in public hospitals.

DHBs have presented nurses and midwives with a “take it or leave it” offer and said they are not prepared to negotiate improvements to it.

The offer was reported back to New Zealand Nurses Organisation members at stop work meetings over the last week. Members instructed their negotiating team to improve it or to give notice of industrial action.

Speaking on behalf of NZNO, Laila Harré said that nurses and midwives have presented a moderate claim in the negotiations which would not even achieve parity with teachers and police but was an amount that they believed was “fair”.

“The DHBs’ behaviour is very disappointing,” she said.

“They seem to have told the government that they would be able to talk nurses and midwives into accepting this deal with the money government has provided so far. They were wrong. We have asked them to take the issue up with central government. They are refusing to do so. We all remember well where this sort of carry on led in 2002 with secondary teachers, and we don’t want to go there.”

Laila Harré said it was time that cool heads prevailed and the DHBs started to listen to what nurses are saying.

“We will not issue notice of industrial action until every possible alternative to a strike has been tried,” she said.

“We have clearly established that nurses and midwives are very significantly underpaid compared to many state sector occupations, notably teachers and police. The DHB offer falls well short of closing this gap. The single biggest group of nurses covered by this agreement have 19 or more years experience. The DHBs have offered them average pay of $60,950 including penal payments for shift work. By the time this money is paid in 2006, it will be nearly $13,000 less per year than a similarly experienced police constable. Altogether, 74% or three-quarters of nurses and midwives are being offered less total pay than police constables. Three-quarters of nurses are being offered less than secondary teachers and two-thirds would still get less than primary teachers.

Laila Harré emphasised that even NZNO’s claim would not mean parity with teachers and police for most nurses and midwives.

“Our claim is aimed at the need to keep our nurses nursing – and nursing in New Zealand , not overseas. That’s why we have concentrated especially on those most likely to leave the profession, the younger nurses with between 4 and 10 years of nursing experience. New Zealand is already three times more dependent on overseas trained nurses than anywhere else in the world.

“We have made it clear to the DHBs that nurses simply won’t agree to be locked into a three year agreement that does not do enough to keep them here and to keep them nursing. Our claims have been signalled for 18 months. They are not extravagant and nurses and midwives are far too organised and well-informed for the DHBs to get away with fudging fairness.”

ENDS

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