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Jacinda Ardern and David Clark welcome nurse pay settlement

Karen Brown, Health Correspondent

Jacinda Ardern and David Clark today welcomed the settlement between hospital nurses and their district health board employers.

Watch Ardern and Clark's press conference here:

The end of the row over renewal of the multi-employer collective agreement was announced a short time ago by the nurses' union in Wellington.

It follows a day-long strike last month and nearly a year of negotiations between both sides for 30,000 nurses in public hospitals and 20 DHBs.

A vigorous social media campaign and breakaway groups criticised and challenged the union leadership repeatedly.

The offer that was ratified today was the fifth from DHBs, worth at least $520 million.

It includes pay rises of between 12.5 and 16 percent; an earlier new pay step for senior nurses, in May 2020; a commitment to proper implementation of a staffing scheme in hospitals known as Care Capacity Demand Management (CCDM); and a commitment to pay equity by the end of next year.

"Following industrial action in July we had a positive and immediate response from DHB employers to return to the negotiation table," said nurses' union spokesperson, Cee Payne.

She said there was exceptionally high voter turnout and a significant majority voted in favour of the offer.

"The ability to recognise pay equity for nursing and midwifery in the public sector by December 2019, on top of the new negotiated pay rates is significant and will address the historic undervaluation of women's work in our country. It will also secure a homegrown nursing workforce in Aotearoa, New Zealand.

"Our member's voices have been heard and action will be taken."

The union said it will now work urgently with DHBs to implement the hard-won deal.

Watch the announcement here:

The deal follows the announcement last week of a Government Accord with the union and DHBs designed to bolster the commitment to safe staffing by promising to deliver 500 extra nurses, at a cost of $38m regardless of the outcome of the ballot, and improved staffing under the CCDM.

The union's chief executive, Memo Musa, said today that securing this top-level extra Government assurance through the Safe Staffing Accord, over and above the requirements of the DHB NZNO MECA "shows the issues articulated by members have been heard".

"The accord alongside the DHB MECA will strengthen and support a new area of nursing here in New Zealand."

Mr Musa added: "I thank our negotiating team that worked relentlessly, who were committed to getting an offer acceptable to members. We also thank our members, CTU unions affiliate members and the public who supported NZNO during the negotiations."

NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said: "The voices of nurses have been heard."

"We need to continue to speak up so our voices and our issues can been heard and listened to and actioned.

"DHBs are working on trust and to recognise the value we add to a safer workforce and improving health outcomes."

She said there is still much to do to secure decent pay and safe staffing for nurses in the primary healthcare sector, in the Māori and iwi provider nurses, in aged care and in private hospitals.

"Nurses working in these sectors equally deserve safe staffing, pay and working conditions just like their DHB colleagues."

The NZNO President Grant Brookes said the 24-hour strike on July 12 was the first strike by nurses in nearly 30 years.

"Our members took that action to secure decent pay, safe staffing, and safe patient care," he said.

"Our sea of purple, the sound of singing and chanting and the visibility of our nurses on our marches, on our picket lines, and providing life preserving services was noticeable to our entire community."

The government has welcomed the settlement.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it rightly delivers the biggest pay increase nurses have seen in a decade and will put 500 more nurses in hospitals.

"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," she said.

She said the government accepts there is still more to be done to better support nurses.

"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.

"This Government is committed to nurses; we value the work they do and we look forward to working closely over the coming years to build a better health system."

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