5 Aug 2014

Strike threat opportunistic, DHBs say

11:38 am on 5 August 2014

District Health Boards have labelled threatened strike action by nearly 12,000 health workers as opportunistic, with the general election just six weeks away.

The workers are at DHBs throughout New Zealand and include mental and public health nurses, physiotherapists, anaesthetic technicians, dental therapists and administrative staff.

They have been offered increases of 0.7 percent, but say they need 2 percent and have a mandate from members to strike if it is not resolved.

The Public Service Association (PSA) says the action will go ahead in early September if mediation next week fails.

The DHBs' employment relations head, Graham Dyer, said the offer of 1.5 percent over two years was consistent with recent settlements and other unions had acted responsibly in accepting it.

Mr Dyer said four different agreements - two covering nursing and two allied heath workers - were being combined in the industrial action.

He told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon that was opportunistic. "I think given the time to the election it could hardly be seen as anything else," he said.

PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff denied this and said the pressure was coming from the health boards.

"The DHB's have said every day this takes to settle is a day later that you will get a pay rise and there'll be no backdating at all. So they're really put the pressure on us to get things going and bring things to a head and that's what we're going to do."

Mr Wagstaff told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report the union did not take industrial action lightly and would work with DHBs to ensure patients were not put at risk if the strike went ahead.