26 Jul 2018

Some nurses still critical of latest pay offer from District Health Boards

10:00 am on 26 July 2018

Some nurses are already criticising the latest pay offer from District Health Boards (DHB), even though their union is recommending they accept it.

Nurses protest on the streets of Auckland as they take industrial action after failed negotiations.

Nurses protesting on the streets of Auckland two weeks ago. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Nurses went on strike for 24 hours two weeks ago, the first national strike in three decades, as the row largely over pay and staffing deepened.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) said the fifth offer made in recent weeks, revised by DHBs, retained previously offered benefits, addressed the issue of safer staffing, and brought forward a new top salary step for senior nurses.

NZNO industrial services manager Glenda Alexander told Morning Report the union was recommending that members accept the new deal, which had significant wins for the nurses.

"This offer represents every issue that our members asked to raise across the negotiation table ... that has been considered and there have been decisions made and as we've said in bargaining in negotiations, everyone knows, that doesn't always mean everyone comes out with everything they want," Ms Alexander said.

"The most important thing is we've now got some concrete mechanisms to address the principle issues ... we're saying unless we get this settled, we can't put the money in your pockets and we can't actually implement some of the stuff, the really positive things, that are in the proposal."

However, comments made overnight on a Facebook group for nurses are overwhelmingly negative about the offer. The page is run by registered nurse, Danni Wilkinson, who has been critical of previous deals.

Ms Wilkinson told Morning Report that those at the negotiating table from the union should be doing more instead of urging them to accept every offer.

"Those in the negotiating room could be working a bit stronger and harder to represent what we're telling them we want. They should be going back to DHBs and saying okay 15 percent is catch-up and we need 1500 more nurses and that should be the bottom line of what we're accepting," Ms Wilkinson said.

"I don't think they are listening and I don't think that they're looking at the facts and figures that we're putting out and going 'actually what they're asking for is reasonable and we should be fighting harder for them'."

However, Ms Alexander, from the union, said those at the negotiating table were doing all they could, and the nurses' expectations were high.

"I think that's a hard call if you haven't been around the negotiating table because ... you put the issues across, you make the arguments, you know we're clear ... what the issue is, we know it's about staffing, we know it's about people feeling because of the lack of staffing undervalued, unacknowledged for the work they do, they're frustrated, they're sick of it," she said.

"There's only so much you can achieve at the bargaining table."

But some nurses still believed the revised offer - a "wrapped up and re-jigged" version of previous ones - was not good enough, Ms Wilkinson said.

"I think we can still do better ... I think our public support is still strong enough. Our message is reasonable that we want fair pay and we want safe staffing and I don't think we should be expecting or accepting anything less and until that happens we should be saying no," she said.

Nurses were also unsure that taking more industrial action would be the answer, Ms Wilkinson said.

"A lot of nurses don't want to go on strike again and we do worry about our patients and sort of the flow-on affect and of course there's the worry that if we keeping striking that public support will wane," she said.

"I do think that perhaps more strikes is something worth considering and if we can keep pushing it and stand strong for we our beliefs then we will get what we want but we have to fight for it."

DHBs had offered a six-month implementation plan for a committee that would report back to nurses bimonthly to address the safety issues, she said.

However, Ms Wilkinson said the plan was pointless because it was "telling us exactly what we already know; that we are understaffed".

"The money shouldn't be put into a committee quite frankly, it should be put into hiring nurses so bit disappointed with that one.

"Again, there's no sort of concrete time-frame for making sure nurses are hired, that really is the problem."

The low-pay and poor working conditions was also another factor in people leaving the industry along with failure to attract more to the industry, she said.

Online voting for nurses on this new offer begins on Tuesday and runs until 6 August.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs