29 Feb 2024

Doctors, dentists call on Health Minister to step in over delayed pay rises

2:55 pm on 29 February 2024
Hospital senior doctors / dentists strike in Auckland

Hospital senior doctors/dentists strike in Auckland in August 2023. Photo: RNZ / Delphine Herbert

Senior hospital doctors and dentists who have been waiting months for agreed pay rises are calling on Health Minister Shane Reti to step in.

The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists said Te Whatu Ora was "failing to meet its contractual obligations to pay staff correctly" due to ongoing payroll problems.

Executive director Sarah Dalton said Health New Zealand had admitted staff in some regions would not be paid in full until June.

Sarah Dalton, Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Sarah Dalton. Photo: LDR / Stuff / Kevin Stent

"That is more than six months late and we have little confidence based on current performance that Te Whatu Ora can even achieve that," she said.

"Doctors settled on a modest cost of living increase, only to have it withheld by their employer. This is a poor way to show staff they are valued."

The term of the current collective agreement was one year, which meant the union was facing the prospect of starting negotiations on the next one before the employer had met its current obligations, she said.

"Minister Shane Reti says the health care system is in crisis and workforce retention is a key priority. Making sure senior doctors and dentists are paid what they are owed, on time, is a critical first step to retain our medical workforce.

"It is Te Whatu Ora's responsibility to make sure it has sufficient staff and systems in place to process payroll changes promptly, and to pay all health workers correctly and on time."

Reti's office has been approached for comment.

Te Whatu Ora chief people officer Andrew Slater said the agency inherited 28 separate systems for paying its 90,000 staff, "most of which aren't fit-for-purpose".

"Our immediate focus is on ensuring that our payroll teams have the resources they need - we have bolstered the team by more than 20 percent in the past six months and continue to do so to ensure we are doing everything possible to pay our people as fast as possible."

Payroll systems had been under pressure in the last six months from the highest ever number of collective agreements - requiring back pay and pay increases - as well historical matters such as pay equity and the Holidays Act remediation project, Slater said.

"We understand that our people are frustrated by the time this is taking, and we have been providing staff and unions with weekly updates on timeframes for when the pay increases will be processed."

It was expected most senior medical officers would receive all payments by April, while a few smaller areas would be completed in May and June.

Te Whatu Ora has also begun a detailed review of its payroll systems, with results expected within months.

The terms of settlement include:

  • 3% increase plus $4000 adjustment to all salary rates was to take effect on 4 September 2023.
  • $3500 lump sum
  • From 1 January 2024 consisting of an adjustment to all specialist steps of an average of $8142 (minimum $5900) and an average of $6631 to all medical/dental officer steps (minimum $5250).

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