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Primary Health Care Nurses See Red Over Pay Parity

Pay talks stalled yesterday and Mediation is the next step for primary health care nurses, says the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO). NZNO has been negotiating the Primary Health Care Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (PHC MECA) since November last year for 3400 nurses, receptionists and administrators across more than 500 practices and accident or medical centres.

NZNO Industrial Advisor Chris Wilson said the employers were not able to increase their offer rejected last month by NZNO members, and that additional funding is clearly needed before they could. However they were also clear that pay parity with DHB nursing staff is necessary to continue delivery of quality primary health care.

"It is very disappointing for all parties that we have not yet gained the Government funding needed despite approaches to the Health Minister, the Ministry of Health and DHB officials by NZNO and organisations such as the New Zealand Medical Association, Green Cross Limited and General Practice NZ."

NZNO released a petition two weeks ago asking the Government to intervene and that DHBs urgently provide the funding needed to fix pay parityy and properly value primary health care workers. Almost 8000 people signed and Ms Wilson says the messages are very clear.

"People want these staff to be properly valued and they want enough of them available to provide the primary health care services we all need. General practices and emergency centres are the front door of the health system."

An experienced nurse covered by the PHC MECA is currently paid 10.6 percent less than their DHB colleague with the same qualifications and experience.

"This is completely unjust and undervalues the amazing work these nurses do in providing expert care in the community - demonstrated so clearly in the COVID-19 response," Ms Wilson said.

The next stage in the negotiation process is Mediation, which will take place on 29 June.

"That leaves two weeks to fix the disparity and it really comes down to political will. Budget 2020 put an extra $3.92 billion into DHBs over the next four years whereas pay parity for PHC nurses would cost a mere $15 million.

"Without additional funding, recruitment and retention issues will only be solved by passing additional costs on to the consumers. This is not a responsible solution and clearly not in the interests of communities."

On Friday 19 June primary health care workers will be highlighting the pay parity issue by holding a "Seeing Red Day" to demonstrate that they are in fact "Seeing Red". General practices and emergency centres across the country will be decked out in red and staff will wear items of red clothing.

Primary health care funding comes through the Vote Health Budget and is allocated to general practices and other services via the DHBs and primary health organisations (PHOs).

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