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Mental health workers to strike on Monday

19 August 2005

Mental health workers to strike on Monday

Mental health workers across the country will take strike action on Monday (22 August) after mediation talks in Wellington this afternoon failed.

The workers, mental health inpatient and community nurses, are members of the Public Service Association (PSA). It is expected that 3,000 workers nation wide will take part in the strike at all the district health boards (except those working for Northland DHB whose current agreement has not expired and Hutt Valley DHB which is not covered by the strike notice).

The 24-hour strike, which begins at 7am, comes after months of pay talks with country’s 21 district health boards for new regional multi-employer collective agreements seeking wage increases and a pay jolt similar to the increase already accepted by general nurses. The PSA has also lodged notice of a one-day strike on Monday, 29 August and intends implementing extended overtime bans beginning in September until the dispute is resolved.

PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff said the parties remained apart on several key issues and, following the failure of mediation talks, members felt they had no option but to take strike action.

“Mental health workers deserve a fair pay deal which reflects the difficult environment they work in. It’s bitterly disappointing that despite months of pay talks we failed to make any progress in mediation today on the key issues we signalled we had to resolve to avoid strike action.

“The district health boards accept our case for a pay deal commensurate with that offered to general nurses and in fact have received an assurance from the government that additional funding is available to settle such an agreement.

“However they refuse to make an offer that recognises the key differences between mental health and general nursing.

“In particular, the DHBs want to claw back the margin paid to community nurses which recognises the extent that they operate independently and unsupervised, often in people’s homes, the pay offer under discussion would see mental health nurses translate on to the new pay scale much slower than general nurses and would see them paid around $5000 less this year than the nurses they work alongside, and the employers want to reduce the penal rates currently paid to mental health at several DHBs.

This ignores the fact that the mental health workforce is a 24/7 operation and our members work more unsocial hours (evenings, weekends and holidays) than their general nursing colleagues.

“It’s already hard to recruit mental health workers. Our members are determined to take significant industrial action to secure a fair pay deal which recognises the realities of the job they do,” Richard Wagstaff said.

ENDS

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