Aged care nurses want to be paid as much as their counterparts in public hospitals.
They say that underfunding of the sector sees registered nurses paid on average $10,000 less than those working for DHBs.
A group of nurses will present the petition, signed by 15,000 people, to the government this morning, asking for them to balance the scales.
Dr Frances Hughes, chair of the New Zealand Aged Care Association Nursing Leadership Group, said that nurses in aged care look after the most vulnerable and clinically unstable patients.
She told Morning Report nurses in aged care and in DHBs have the same education and training.
"More than 38 percent of over-65s die in our facilities. We have to manage their pain, we are the senior clinicians.
"We are not valued through our funding mechanism of the care component like DHBs are and this is causing us major problems."
Hughes said it's difficult to retain nurses in aged care because they are attracted by the salaries at public hospitals.
"This means we have to ask more of our nurses."
She said that while some providers of aged care will subsidise wages to bring them more in line with DHBs, many of the not-for-profit and religious organisations cannot do that.
"What we are doing today is we are saying, if you don't have registered nurses in our rest homes we cannot care for you in the future. We will not be able to care for the increased demand in aged care."
Hughes said that if things carry on the way they are, patients in aged care will end up in the public hospital system.