10 Nov 2023

Telehealth workers accept latest pay offer

1:08 pm on 10 November 2023
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In the year to June, 2.2 million calls were made to more than 35 helplines run by Whakarongorau Aotearoa. Photo: Petr Macháček / Unsplash

Telehealth workers have voted to accept a new pay offer after a drawn-out dispute involving strike action.

Unions say a majority have voted to accept the improved offer from Whakarongorau Aotearoa, which operates Healthline, GP after-hours services, the poisons centre, mental health crisis support and other critical help lines.

A joint statement from the Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and the Public Service Association said the 4 percent pay increase was double the initial pay offer, and meant all telehealth workers would earn at least the Living Wage.

"We want to acknowledge that the final outcome of negotiations is not exactly what we have all hoped and worked hard for," the statement said.

"However, this is an outcome you can take pride in. You stood strong to bring everyone up to at least the Living Wage and doubled your pay offer. Your struggle will now join a long history of worker struggles in Aotearoa.

"You have also grown and won in many other ways, and this will become clearer as we continue to fight hard alongside you for improvements in your workplaces."

In the year to June, 2.2 million calls were made to more than 35 helplines run by Whakarongorau.

Its telehealth workers went on strike for a second time in October.

Mental health response nurse and PSA delegate Jayne McQuarrie said at the time many of her colleagues were quitting because of low pay.

"You're not able to live properly on the wages paid, there are high levels of sickness, with rosters difficult to fill, shifts are often left short-staffed, increasing the stress on the staff on duty.

"With all this going on, you have increased wait times and a higher number of abandoned calls.

"There's not a lot of down-time in telehealth - often you're doing back to back calls, and you're dealing with increased acuity [more serious cases]. You're essentially the frontline for the frontline staff."

Whakarongorau said in October it wanted to pay them more, but needed more Government funding. According to documents on its website, its funding comes from Te Whatu Ora (in partnership with Te Aka Whai Ora), the Ministry of Social Development, ACC and the Department of Corrections.