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Primary health care nurses and staff to stop work

MORE than 3400 primary healthcare nurses and medical receptionists and administrators across more than 500 practices and accident and medical centres will stop work for two hours nationwide on Thursday, July 23 after mediation to settle their multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) negotiations failed.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) industrial advisor Chris Wilson said this has not happened before in these primary healthcare workplaces and is a clear indication of the frustration workers feel after eight months of fruitless negotiations.

“It is not surprising employers have not increased their offer to one that our members could accept because their funding from the Government is completely inadequate.

“Employers have been very clear that they also want pay parity with health boards so they can keep their staff and continue delivery of a quality primary healthcare service.”

Ms Wilson said an experienced nurse covered by the Primary Health Care (PHC) MECA is currently paid 10.6 percent less than their health board colleague with the same qualifications, skills 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.”

She said this was not your usual union versus employer dispute.

“Owners, doctors and managers are also disappointed that government funding for pay parity has not been forthcoming.

“This is despite approaches to ex-Health Minister David Clark, the Ministry of Health and health board officials by both NZNO and employer advocates, the NZ Medical Association and Green Cross Health.”

Ms Wilson said the recently released Health and Disability System Review Report was clear that primary healthcare nurses should expect pay parity, and that Clark acknowledged there was a disparity as recently as a month ago.

“Resolving this really comes down to political will, and our members' patience has just about run out.

“Budget 2020 put an extra $3.92 billion into health boards over the next four years, whereas pay parity for PHC nurses would cost a mere $15 million.”