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‘More fobbed off and angrier than ever’

Primary Health Care nurses serve notice of strike days in November.

Gisborne Primary Health Care (PHC) nurses and receptionist/administration staff seeking pay parity with health board staff will join their national colleagues in 24-hour strikes on November 9 and November 23.

About 3200 New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) PHC members voted “overwhelmingly” in favour of the strikes, said NZNO industrial adviser Chris Wilson.

Strike action was “the last thing any of us want to be doing during this difficult and uncertain time”, said Gisborne PHC nurse and NZNO delegate Tegan Jones.

“We are really disappointed that we will need to be taking industrial action again for the Ministry of Health and District Health Boards to take our pleas seriously.

“Primary Health Care funding needs to increase immediately to provide better, easily accessible care to our communities and value the staff that provide it — end of story.

“We continue to lose integral qualified professionals to tertiary care providers due to better pay rates and acknowledgement of professional development.

“If the government and the health boards continue to push for the re-orientation of services from the hospital setting into the community (which is in addition to all the key work we already do in preventive care and screening), then the funding needs to be passed on to us, simple as that.

“We cannot continue to do more with less.

“We, as primary health care nurses, are no less valuable, qualified, hard-working or skilled than our tertiary service counterparts and we deserve the same opportunities and acknowledgement for our very important mahi.

“I am currently training to become a nurse practitioner, trying to do my best to fill some of the gaps I see in primary health care, but the current multi-employer collective doesn't even acknowledge the roles of Nurse Prescriber or Nurse Practitioners in primary health care, nor stipulate how they should be renumerated for their extended qualifications.

“We wish there was another way of resolving this issue, as industrial action has always been and should always be a last resort. But we are again at a complete standstill with our negotiations, and our collective voice has yet to have been heard.

“As a unique group of nurses, we really hope for a resolution before the first of our two planned 24-hour strikes occurs.”

Ms Wilson said the vote by NZNO PHC members was a clear indication of their frustration, anger and disappointment, “and of how tired they are of being constantly undervalued after 10 months of fruitless negotiations”.

Despite assurances from the Ministry of Health, health board representatives and employers in September that there was finally a commitment to pay parity with staff employed in heath boards, there had been no tangible progress to enable a return to the negotiating table, “so the strike notice has been served”.

The Government would not address the funding issue at the heart of the problem.

“Our members are now feeling more fobbed off and angrier than ever.”

The government position is that the PHC nurses and other staff work for private employers and their pay and conditions are not negotiated with the Government or Crown entities.