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Health Workers Strike Rally Speech Notes

Health workers deserve a fair deal

Health Workers Strike Rally Speech Notes

Rod Donald, Green MP Cathedral Square, Christchurch Midday 3 December 2001

Three weeks ago you demonstrated your determination to gain a fair settlement in your campaign for adequate wages and reasonable working conditions. The Green Party supported you then and the Green Party supports you now.

That action three weeks ago should have been enough. The government should have got the message. After all it's a Labour-Alliance Government - committed to working people, committed to pay equity and committed to public health. Or so we thought.

I feel very sorry that you all have to strike again. I know you are dedicated to your jobs. I know you are committed to providing a comprehensive, caring, safe, effective public health service. I know you do not want to have to strike and I congratulate you for standing up for what you deserve.

The government and the District Health Board should not be putting you through this. There is no excuse for underpaying health workers and I mean all health workers - nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, dental therapists, psychologists, orderlies, support staff and administration staff. None of you are getting a fair deal.

There is no excuse for the government to under-fund District Health Boards. Where is the Minister of Health Annette King? Why is she passing the buck to the Canterbury Health Board? She should instead be passing the bucks - boosting the budget, so the board can do its job.

If we had a National government there would have been Labour and Alliance speakers on the platform demanding them to adequately fund health. We know the mess is National's fault but many of you voted for Labour because you expected them to fix the health crisis.

If you voted Labour or the Alliance I want you to put pressure on your local MPs and ask them how their government can vote tomorrow to put $600m into their superannuation fund when today you are having to strike because the Canterbury Health Board says it can't find a fraction of that to meet your wage claims.

While you're about it, ask your local Labour and Alliance MPs where they're going to find $1,200m next year, $1,800m the year after and $2,510m the year after that to put into their superannuation fund when we have real needs right now for health, for education and for social services.

If the government is really concerned about the ageing population then it should be investing in health now to reduce the future costs of more older people. It should be paying you a decent wage now, so you can have a good quality of life not only in retirement but while you are working.

If Annette King believes the Canterbury Board's $20m deficit is due to mismanagement or poor governance, then she should work with the board to cut management waste and transaction costs without compromising the quality and level of our health service.

While she's about it Annette King should be doing something about the fact that the Health Board is giving the GP group Pegasus Health $75m this year and Pegasus has accumulated $26m from public health funds since its inception, including $3m this year. How can that be justified when the board has a $20 million dollar deficit?

But right now Annette King must meet the funding shortfall, so that staffing levels can be improved and you can all be paid properly.

The board has got to reduce nursing work loads, fix unhealthy rostering, reduce overwork and stress, improve education opportunities, develop decent career structures, as well as address poor wages and the expanding gap with other professionals. It can only do it if the deficit monkey is removed from its back by the government.

That is the commitment you would expect of a Labour/Alliance government. You would also expect a Labour/Alliance government to be committed to pay equity but when we asked the government last week why a brand new cop, first day on the beat, gets $41,000 dollars when a nurse graduate only gets an average of $26,000 dollars we were told it was all National's fault. We say "Fix it!"

It's time the government valued you. It's time the government respected you. It's time the government stopped forcing you onto the streets when you want to be caring for patients. If this was a National government we would also be saying its time to change the government. Instead, what you have to tell Labour and the Alliance is that they shouldn't take your support for granted. There is a progressive alternative if they fail to deliver because the Green Party is committed to your cause!

ENDS

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