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NZNO To Issue Strike Notice But Says Action Easily Avoidable

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) will issue a strike notice this week covering some 3200 Primary Health Care (PHC) nurses and receptionist/administration staff across more than 500 practices and accident/medical centres nationwide.

The one-day strike is set for 3 September, but NZNO Industrial Advisor Chris Wilson says there is still time and opportunity to resolve the situation.

"Our PHC members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the strike and that’s a clear indication of their frustration and disappointment after nine months of fruitless negotiations.

"PHC nurses just want to be paid the same as their DHB colleagues. An experienced nurse earns 10.6 percent less ($7,651 per annum) than a hospital nurse, and some on the medical receptionist/administration scale earn lower than the living wage.

"It would take very little for the Government to resolve this issue and properly value the amazing work these people do in providing expert care in the community - demonstrated so clearly in the COVID-19 response."

Ms Wilson says members are fully aware that there have been changes to COVID-19 alert levels and have not taken this action lightly. NZNO will be open to discussing issues of patient safety as may be raised by the employers.

"The strike ballot was already well underway when alert levels shifted. We have been endeavouring to resolve this matter for far too long and members have simply had enough."

Ms Wilson says PHC employers have been very clear they need pay parity with DHBs so they can keep their staff and maintain quality care, but they say funding from the Government is inadequate to do this.

NZNO and employer advocates the NZ Medical Association and Green Cross Health have approached the Ministry of Health and Government on several occasions seeking intervention to end this pay inequity at a time when PHC members are again at the forefront of the national COVID-19 response.

"If the political will is there we can achieve a resolution without the strike needing to occur, and that would be in the interests of everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand right now," Ms Wilson says.

"NZNO is willing to meet at any time to resolve this. All we need is for the Government to do the right thing for the people who help save lives during the perilous time of a pandemic."

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