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Nurses walk off the ward

More than 100 nurses downed tools and marched out of Wairarapa Hospital for a stop-work meeting yesterday to discuss pay and conditions.

Wairarapa New Zealand Nurses Organization [NZNO] delegate Amber Cox was at the meeting.

“We were really pleased with the turnout,” she said.

“We all felt so positive we were taking action to show we are dissatisfied and let down by the current Te Whatu Ora offer.”

About 120 nurses took part in the one-hour stop-work meeting, which saw them march from the hospital down Blair St to the meeting venue, waving banners.

This is the first time local nurses who are members of the NZNO have had such a meeting – which was one of 57 across the country this week. The meetings are to discuss an offer made by Te Whatu Ora in negotiating their collective agreement.

Negotiations include pay rates and parity, working conditions, and back pay. NZNO members have asked for a pay rise in line with inflation [currently 6.7 per cent], but Te Whatu Ora has offered $4000 this year across all rates and a further three per cent next year.

“We came together to show our solidarity,” Cox said.

“At the meeting, we discussed the latest offer and the next steps. We were disappointed with the offer. The union wanted to get a feel from members about what they want negotiators to do. People thought the offer wasn’t very good. Nothing in it addressed safe staffing, or how to attract new nurses and retain those already in the job.

“The Te Whatu Ora offer was not well received today.”

Some NZNO members stayed at work to make it possible for others to attend.

“Enough stayed behind to ensure there was cover,” Cox said.

The NZNO negotiating team will meet next week to consider member feedback, after which it is expected negotiations will continue.

NZNO chief executive Paul Goulter said last week he expected the meetings would be well-attended.

“Members would much rather be at work focussing on their patients, but we’re holding these meetings to decide what to do next because Te Whatu Ora’s offer will not help them deliver the levels of care their patients deserve.

“We are at a time when Aotearoa desperately needs nurses and other health workers. Pay and conditions that recognise their value would make nursing more attractive and help keep the nurses we have.

“Right now, nurses do not feel safe coming into work and, ultimately, patients will pay the price for hospitals that are continuously understaffed and under-resourced,” he said.

“The bargaining team does not think the offer meets member expectations, and the meetings are part of our democratic process for receiving member feedback.”

The NZNO collective agreement with Te Whatu Ora expired in October 2022.

“We are now seven months down the track, and we’ve got nowhere,” Cox said.

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