The government has ignored the Nurses Organisation's call to lift the wages of nurses working for Māori health providers to match those at DHBs, the union says.
Union kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku, who represented the Māori nurses claim in the Waitangi Tribunal's health inquiry, said there was a 25 percent pay disparity between nurses working for Māori health providers and nurses working at DHBs.
"The same skill is required to be a nurse across both sectors but they're getting paid differently," she said.
"That's fundamentally the problem. This pay disparity shouldn't exist."
Nuku said Associate Minister of Health Peeni Henare had ignored requests to meet with Māori nurses about the pay disparity.
"We reached out to the minister September of last year but we've been reaching out to every single government since 2011, we've even gone to the United Nations and put our case to the permanent forum for indigenous issues four years in a row.
"We've put our case to the Waitangi Tribunal Wai 2575, we've been everywhere. We've had conversations with the minister of health who has referred us to minister Henare and we just don't seem to be able to get, kind of, recognition."
She said the pay disparity was being felt by Māori nurses hard.
"Māori nurses choose to work in these environments because they want to give back to their families, their communities, their whānau, hapū and iwi so the impact is huge.
"We're seeing nurses doing double shifts, picking up cleaning jobs at the weekend, doing what ever they can do to make ends meet, we see some of them have resorted to because they can't afford accommodation so some of them are choosing to sleep in cars."
Henare said the government was committed to improving equities in healthcare.
"I've made it a priority to improve people's access to health care and achieve equities in the sector. Ultimately increasing the Māori workforce will do just that.
"We need a strong, sustainable Māori workforce if we're to improve people's access to healthcare and ultimately their health I am advised by officials at the Ministry of Health that they are working with groups like NZNO to address the issue of pay equity.
"The proposed Māori Health Action Plan has a strong focus on the Māori health workforce and development of the Māori health sector."
He said he had met with Ms Nuku on two occasions and had not received a request to meet since.