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Strike off but nurses unsatisfied

A last-minute deal between Te Whatu Ora and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation [NZNO] has resulted in today’s planned strike action across New Zealand being averted, but a local delegate says important issues remain unresolved.

Nurses voted to accept the public health agency’s 11th hour offer on Monday.

“While a majority of members accepted the offer, the closeness of the vote shows there remains a serious level of concern and discontent amongst members,” NZNO chief executive Paul Goulter said.

“Many members see the offer as not helping address the shortage of nurses that is severely impacting on the quality of care they can provide for their unwell patients. It is pretty light on important issues such as health and safety at work and minimum staff to patient ratios.”

Goulter said members strongly believe a lot needs to change.

Amber Cox, a NZNO delegate at Wairarapa Hospital, agreed.

“There are items in the collective agreement that still need addressing,” she said.

Cox listed KiwiSaver contributions, allowances, and safe staffing levels among the issues that need to be resolved.

“We need to see nurses in charge of shifts getting a higher duties allowance,” she said.

“At the moment it’s a discretionary payment, and the nurses are not always getting what they are entitled to.”

Cox said for places without software to assist with monitoring safe staffing levels, minimum staff numbers should be put in on a ratio basis.

“There aren’t enough nurses anyway. We still have big gaps in the rosters,” she said.

“There aren’t enough people to put in, which is a bigger problem.”

Te Whatu Ora employer KiwiSaver contributions for nurses will go up to three per cent from the current level of two per cent. The NZNO had asked for 6 per cent, which is what some other healthcare workers currently get, but that request did not gain traction.

“Why should doctors at Te Whatu Ora get twice as much as nurses?” Cox asked.

“I am disappointed,” she said, although she also acknowledged the majority vote and that “the negotiators and delegates put in a lot of work”.

The new collective agreement will be in place until October 2024, when fresh negotiations will start. At that time, the issues around KiwiSaver, additional payments for nurses with post-graduate qualifications, nurse-in-charge/nurse coordinator allowances, and other safety related matters are expected to be discussed.

“I expect a lot of those issues to be on the table next year,” Cox said.

“I think everyone is just really tired from a very drawn-out process.

“It feels like the issues haven’t been resolved for me personally and for many of my colleagues.”

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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