6 Jul 2021

Queensland job pitch for NZ nurses and midwives promises warm reception

5:26 am on 6 July 2021

Queensland is trying to attract New Zealand nurses with a big ad campaign.

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The nurses' union is worried a new campaign will lure nurses to Queensland. Photo:

The state government has taken out half-page ads in the New Zealand Herald in the past few days, extolling the virtues of the Sunshine State and the need for nurses and midwives there.

A nurses' union is worried the ads will tap into a sense of dissatisfaction among the Kiwi workforce, who are already voting on whether to strike again. The union is also concerned some might pack their bags.

"Ditch the winter chill," the ad reads, "expand your horizons in sunny Queensland!" The upbeat ad has pictures of smiling nurses with babies, and a photo of a golden sand beach.

A New Zealand nurse in Queensland, Jess Purcell, is already a fan of working in the state.

"I love it - the pay, the conditions."

It was clear from her very first pay.

"I thought they'd paid me way too much money, it was over double what I was paid in New Zealand. I went to them... [they said] 'no, that's what you earn'. I was like 'what?!'"

While she worked with great people in New Zealand, the poor pay and the conditions - including overtime and stretched staffing - was not worth it.

She said Australia had better opportunities and better nurse-to-patient ratios, and she believed the profession was more respected.

"I just think people in New Zealand - especially if you get into nursing young like I did - that's not your only option," Purcell said.

"The other thing that makes me really sad is a lot of my friends that went into nursing are now not nurses because you can't afford life."

New Zealand Nurses Organisation industrial services manager Glenda Alexander said nurses in this country were over it.

"We've been through a protracted bargaining process. They're feeling understaffed, undervalued, and, you know, that sounded to me like a very attractive proposition that that ad was painting," Alexander said.

Last month 30,000 nurses walked off the job when contract negotiations broke down and they have just submitted their votes on whether to strike three more times in the coming months.

"I think people will vote with their feet if this is not resolved shortly," Alexander said.

The nurses rally in Wellington on 9 June 2021.

Nurses went on strike last month and are considering more strike action. Photo: RNZ / Dom Thomas

Dunedin nurse Alaina Hunter said there was no shortage of interest in moving to Australia, according to nursing Facebook groups.

"Every day there's someone saying 'does anyone have an agency contact or hospital contact [in Australia]' or 'how do I go about getting my registration?' Every day someone's asking a question about how they can leave," Hunter said.

Hunter also nursed in Sydney for years. She loved her time there but warned it was not the utopia painted by ads.

"My ex-colleagues from Sydney are currently striking at the moment for the very same issues we are. Not so much pay, but conditions. They're striking for ratios. They have all the same issues. The conditions are pretty much the same."

She said although salaries were higher, if you were in a big city living costs were higher too. Hunter said she loved her time in Sydney, and, if she had her time again, she would do the same thing.

The results of the vote on whether nurses will strike again should be known today. The proposed strikes are late July for 24 hours, mid-August for eight hours, and mid-September for 24 hours.

The District Health Boards said they were "disappointed" strikes were still an option. Spokesperson Dale Oliff said DHBs had "moved significantly" over the last six months and had made three offers, each better than the last. He said they had tried to meet the union in the middle, and added that negotiation involved compromise.

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