Health Minister Dr David Clark says he's disappointed that nurses have voted against the District Health Boards’ half-billion dollar offer, the largest made to nurses in more than a decade.
“Nurses are a vital part of our health workforce and clearly feel they have been undervalued over the last nine years. Their frustration is understandable.
"This offer goes a long way to address their pay and staffing concerns, but you cannot fix nine years of underfunding in one pay round.
“The deal that’s been rejected today is the largest nurses and midwives have been offered since their historic pay jolt 14 years ago under the last Labour-led government," says David.
“The proposal added an extra two steps for the longest-serving and most experienced nurses and would see most full-time registered nurses earning an extra $10,000 a year within 18 months. That is a far better deal than that offered under National.
“It also included funding for around 500 more nursing staff to address specific safety concerns. That is a significant move – and one we are committed to. The $38-million funding for that is ring-fenced.
“This offer addresses the unique circumstances faced by nurses in the public sector, namely their limited pay scale and safe staffing issues.
“However the Government has to balance pay demands across the public sector. We have gone as far as we can in terms of extra Government money but hopefully the offer can be reconfigured in a way nurses are happy with.
“I know that everyone wants to find a settlement. I hope cool heads will prevail and industrial action can be avoided.
“It’s important to stress that both DHBs and the Nurses Organisation are absolutely committed to patient safety during any industrial action. As you would expect, DHBs have been planning for the possibility of industrial action and everything will be done to ensure safety remains the top priority. I am advised that contingency plans are well in hand.
“In the meantime I urge the DHBs and the NZNO to continue to work together to find a settlement – it is in everyone’s interests that a resolution is found as soon as possible,” says David Clark.
The Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff says today’s vote from New Zealand Nurses Organisation members to reject the latest agreement offer from District Health Boards showed the cumulative strain of nine years of health underfunding has reached breaking point.
"Collective bargaining is a reflection of the mood of the workforce. It’s clear in this case that nurses have so many pressures on their incomes, their work hours, and on their patient loads because of inadequate staffing.
"Industrial action isn’t a decision taken lightly by anyone, especially caring professionals, and it certainly isn’t the outcome we want to see. But neither is years of this mostly-female profession being undervalued and underappreciated, and I think it’s come to a crisis -point reflected in this vote.
"Around the world, we are seeing a wave of action from women who basically have had enough of waiting for things to get better and are expressing their absolute frustration. NZNO members have used this opportunity to have their say loud and clear - they’re not willing to keep on waiting for improvements which have been delayed and denied for so many years," says Richard.
"I have confidence in the professionalism of nurses and the DHBs to safely manage any industrial action to protect life and limb."
"However, it’s never too late to talk. This vote sends a strong message to the DHBs, and I hope to see them back around the table with the nurses’ representatives to reach an acceptable settlement soon."