2 Aug 2018

Nurses pay rise won't benefit most Māori nurses

2:38 pm on 2 August 2018

Most Māori nurses will miss out on pay rises won by strike action because they don't work at district health boards.

Protesters at Auckland City Hospital.

Photo: RNZ/Dan Cook

Nurses are currently voting on the latest DHB offer - which includes pay rises of between 12.5 and 16 percent.

Any settlement will only apply to nurses employed by district health boards (DHBs).

But the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) said a majority of Māori nurses won't see the gains because many are not employed by DHBs.

NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said most Māori nurses work in primary health areas such as Māori health organisations.

She said funding is different for Māori and iwi health providers, and their nurses earn up to 25 percent less than DHB nurses.

And many Māori nurses are grappling with lower pay as it is.

Ms Nuku said that gap will widen with the proposed pay rises, and she hoped the wider nursing movement will advocate pay parity for all nurses.

"The same skills that are required in district health boards is required in primary health care, and yet there's huge disparities in payment."

Mrs Nuku said if nurses accept the latest offer, which includes 500 additional nurses, she hoped DHB's will prioritise the recruitment of Māori.

Since the 1990's, Māori have made up only seven percent of the nursing workforce.

Ministry of Health Chief Nursing officer Jill Clendon said they have a goal to double that.

"We want to match the number of Māori nurses in the workforce with the proportion of Māori in the population," she said.

But the NZNO's student representative Rebekah Horn said the intent to get more Māori nurses has been there for decades, but the stats haven't budged.

She said Māori want to care for Māori, but being paid less to nurse at Māori health providers was not an attractive proposition.

"We instinctively want to care for our families as Māori as well, and we find that going off and working and not getting paid what we need to have our whānau suffer is one of the biggest problems," Ms Horn said.

Health Minister David Clark said nurses in primary health or iwi providers are usually employed by private employers.

While he said he values their work, their pay is not negotiated with the government and the settlement would not be extended to them.

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