3 Jul 2023

Nurses' pay: Government announces pay equity offer for Te Whatu Ora nurses

5:01 pm on 3 July 2023
Ayesha Verrall

Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall. File photo Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The government has boosted its pay equity offer for Te Whatu Ora nurses by $1.5 billion in a bid to end a long-running dispute over pay rates and backpay.

More than 30,000 nurses employed by Te Whatu Ora will soon vote on the offer following an agreement on the proposed terms of a settlement between Te Whatu Ora, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO), and the Public Service Association (PSA).

If accepted, the offer would see Te Whatu Ora-employed registered nurses get an additional 4.5 percent boost to pay for salaries between $69,566 and $99,630 plus penal rates; and senior nurses getting a 6.5 percent bump, to between $105,704 and $153,060 plus penal rates.

Both would also receive an additional $15,000 lump sum for backpay.

The proposed deal adds to the 14 percent increase paid to registered nurses, enrolled nurses and health assistants in April this year as an interim pay equity adjustment, brought in after the Employment Relations Authority approved Te Whatu Ora's application for the boost in December 2022.

Te Whatu Ora had agreed to the equitable pay rates the previous year, but it was put on hold when unions began a legal challenge to the backpay part of the settlement.

Health Minister Ayesha Verrall said the total value of the pay offer was now up to $4 billion, and meant pay rates for new graduate nurses had increased an average of 40.7 percent, and for registered nurses at the top of their scale by 49.2 percent, since Labour became the government in 2017.

"I'm so pleased the NZNO and PSA leadership have reached this historic agreement with Te Whatu Ora to ensure the predominantly female nursing workforce finally receive the pay they deserve," Verrall said.

Nurses rally for fair pay near the Bridge of Remembrance

Nurses rally over pay in Christchurch in August 2022. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

The offer:

  • Senior nurses - 6.5 percent increase (in addition to agreement in principle rates of 6 March 2022)
  • Registered nurses, enrolled nurses, health care assistants and mental health care assistants - 4.5 percent increase (in addition to agreement in principle rates of 6 March 2022)
  • These rates also apply from March 2022 so will be back paid to that date
  • $15,000 lump sum payment in recognition of prior work, pro-rated for service and FTE in the period 1 January 2020 to 6 February 2022. (This is additional to the $10,000, also pro-rated, already paid.

Speaking after the weekly Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said it would be the largest pay equity settlement in New Zealand's history.

"I'm incredibly proud of the $4 billion commitment we've made to address pay inequity in this largely female workforce who have campaigned for years to have these issues addressed."

Standing alongside him, Verrall described the pay offer as "incredibly important".

"It represents a significant step to ending gender-based pay discrimination in the healthcare system and finally paying nurses what they're worth.

"I'm also pleased that it should have positive impacts on our workforce recruitment and retention."