24 May 2018

Panel recommends pay rise for nurses to avoid strikes

From Checkpoint, 5:21 pm on 24 May 2018

Recommendations for an immediate 3 percent payrise and a one-off $2000 payment for nurses may not be enough to stop 27,000 of them from striking, the nurses union says.

Jacinda Ardern was not willing to comment on the pay offer while negotations were still underway.

Jacinda Ardern was not willing to comment on the pay offer while negotations were still underway. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

After rejecting a DHB offer of a 2 percent pay increase in March, the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recommended an independent panel work to help resolve the issues between nurses and DHB.

The panel recommended an immediate 3 percent payrise from June, with another 3 percent rise in August this year, and again in August next year to cover the cost of living, as well as a one-off $2000 payment to avoid strike action.

However, New Zealand Nurses Organisation spokesperson Cee Payne said the recommendations fell short in addressing nurses' pay concerns.

"It sounds good but we were embargaining for quite a long time and at one point we had a two, two and two over three years, our members clearly didn't want that ... so three, three and three is effectively just one-tenth more additional increase we don't think that's going to solve the problem." 

Ms Payne would not say whether the strike will go ahead until the DHB considered the panel's recommendations, and made their offer on Monday.

The panel's chair, Margaret Wilson, said most of the feedback it received was around nurses' huge workload so, along with the pay rise it suggested a 2 percent boost in nursing staff.

She said the recommendation to increase staff - which worked out to be about 600 full-time nursing positions - showed the pressure nurses were under.

"That's good recognition but if you don't fix the pay at the same time how do you attract people to stay in the industry ... the two go hand-in-hand."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she's glad the panel has identified the struggles nurses were facing in the workplace and hoped the pay dispute could soon be settled.

But Ms Ardern was not willing to comment on the pay offer while negotations were still underway.

"DHBs are sitting down now giving real consideration to what the panel has said and, of course, nurse safety should be really top-of-mind for all of us," Ms Ardern said.

"Everyone wants to go to work and make sure they are working in a safe environment and certainly what the panel is drawing out that for some nurses that might not be the case," she said.

A poll asking 27 thousand nurses whether they support strike action is due to close tommorow.

DHBs then review the recommendations, as well as nurses feedback, before making an updated offer next Monday.

The nursing union will then consult with its members before deciding on whether to proceed with strike action, which would take place in July.

Read the full report from the panel here.