Some of the country’s nurses will be swapping their scrubs for placards on Wednesday as part of a nationwide strike.
The industrial action, lasting 8 hours, will take place on Wednesday, June 9 after 30,000 nurses voted to reject the latest offer in the current round of multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) negotiations.
Strikes will be happening throughout the day right across the country, from about 11am until 7pm. In Auckland, nurses will march up Queen St at 1pm. In Wellington, a rally will march to Parliament in the early afternoon.
Here’s everything you need to know about Wednesday’s strike:
Who is striking and why?
Some nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants at public hospitals and district health board (DHB) facilities will be striking on Wednesday.
The strike will affect all public hospitals and DHB facilities.
The decision to strike was announced on Monday, after 30,000 members of the New Zealand Nurses’ Organisations voted to reject the latest offer from the District Health Boards amid concerns about pay, conditions, and safe staffing.
The Government in April offered a “reasonable and responsible” deal, which the union said would give “most members” a salary increase “little more than 1.38 per cent, just under the rate of inflation”. On Monday, that offer was overwhelmingly rejected by the union.
Nurses’ Organisation’s lead advocate David Wait said members were facing serious workforce issues, with pay rates than did not attract people to the sector, and staffing levels which stretched them to breaking point.
Wait said the second DHB offer had not significantly changed and did not address these issues.
“Our members are genuinely concerned that nursing shortages would increase if it was accepted, and that standards of care for all in Aotearoa New Zealand would suffer as a result.”
The only concession by DHBs in negotiations had been a lump sum payment of $4000, but that represented a part payment on back pay for their still-unsettled pay equity claim, he said.
“Members know that lump sum payments do not lift actual rates of pay, which impacts on the long-term issues of a health system that values nurses and their work, attracts new people into the profession and encourages others back from overseas.
“They also find it unfair that they are being asked to wait for the pay equity process, when there is uncertainty about when this will happen or what the results will be.”
Wait said NZNO members were resolute and that further strike action had not been ruled out.
What does the Government say?
Speaking to media on Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the nurses’ union wanted a 17 per cent pay increase for nurses, but the Government was financially constrained due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The nurses’ expectation, or at least the ask, had been for a 17 per cent increase – we’re just not in the position to be able to deliver that,” she said.
“But what we are offering makes a real effort to lift those on the lowest pay bands.”
Arden said the Government was focusing on raising the pay rates of the lowest paid nurses. “… We are working to increase those bottom bands, but 17 per cent, across the board, unfortunately we’re just not in a position to deliver.”
Health Minister Andrew Little said the Labour Government previously provided the nurses a close-to 14 per cent increase in 2018, when taking into account a bonus lump sum payment.
“The reality is they are underpaid … It does take time to do the catch-up, but also we had the pay equity deal which is being worked out at the moment as well.”
The offer put before the nurses was “reasonable and responsible”, he said.
Where and when are the strikes?
The NZNO strike action schedule has the timings and locations of all the strikes taking place across Aotearoa.
In Auckland, the strike will begin at about 1pm with people marching from Britomart, up Queen St and ending at Myers Park.
In Wellington, the strike will begin at 12pm in the Civic Square and people will march to Parliament.