31 Jul 2023

Nurses and healthcare assistants accept pay equity settlement

2:38 pm on 31 July 2023
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Nurses strike in Christchurch in February. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Nurses and healthcare assistants employed by Te Whatu Ora have voted to accept an historic pay equity settlement that will net some up to $28,000 in lump sums and backpay.

However, it does not mean the threat of strike action by nurses next month is averted, as they have yet to vote on the separate collective agreement offer from Te Whatu Ora.

The pay equity claim lodged by the unions in 2017 under the Equal Pay Act, is meant to fix long-standing sex-based discrimination and bring wages into line with male-dominated professions.

The proposed settlement came out of mediation between Te Whatu Ora, the Nurses Organisation and PSA, which had been in litigation over the claim in the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) and Employment Court since early 2022.

The amended rates will be backpaid to 7 March, 2022.

Te Whatu Ora already paid out lump sums of $10,000 last March, and together with additional lump sums and backpay on the revised pay rates, staff were owed between $17,000 and $29,000, depending on role and seniority.

Nurses Organisation (NZNO) chief executive Paul Goulter said the outcome was "a significant milestone in the history of nursing in Aotearoa".

"This is a long overdue step towards addressing the significant gender-based inequality nurses, midwives, health care assistants and kaimahi hauora face in their work every day. But it is also just a beginning, and we look forward to working with Te Whatu Ora to address other forms of gender-based discriminations nurses face."

The union would "not rest" until the new rates addressing gender inequality were extended to all nurses working in New Zealand, he said.

"The need for pay parity across all nursing sectors is well-established and not in dispute. That all nurses are paid the same according to their qualifications and experience is a matter of wage justice."

Meanwhile, voting was open 1 - 7 August for NZNO's Te Whatu Ora members over whether to accept the latest collective agreement offer from hospitals.

That amounts to a flat rate salary increase of $4000 ($5000 for senior nurses) and a further 3 percent next year.

A 24-hour strike planned to commence at 7am on 9 August, which was organised before the latest offer, will be called off if members vote to accept the offer.