Health Minister, Andrew Little says he was advised overnight that the New Zealand Nurses Organisation will not to put the current pay-equity settlement to its members for a vote.
He said the Nurses Organisation and the Public Service Association have been working with district health boards on this process since 2018.
“In December they reached a settlement. It is the most significant pay-equity settlement in history, and if accepted by the 40,000 nurses and other healthcare workers covered by the agreement will lift their pay by a considerable margin,” the Minister said.
The unions and the health boards agreed that it would be put to nurses to vote on next week, he said.
“Last night, I was notified that the Nurses Organisation would not now do this.”
“Obviously I am concerned about this. There is a binding agreement in place between the parties and it should be honoured.
“Nurses, like many other female-dominated parts of the work force, have been underpaid for decades.
“This Government is committed to addressing this injustice and is the first prepared to put a significant amount of money into doing so.”
The Minister said the process had been “long and difficult”.
“And in August I intervened to tell the Ministry of Health and district health boards to progress the claim with urgency.”
“Collectively, this pay equity settlement will add more than $520 million to the health payroll. Cabinet has released the money and we are ready to pay nurses properly for the work they do.
“But government funding has limits. There are many other demands on the health budget and on the whole of the Government’s budget. We must manage many demands while keeping a lid on debt.
“We can’t undo decades of under-payment, but what we can do is make sure nurses are paid fairly from now on.
“As the Minister of Health, I am not involved in the process of negotiating this agreement. But I am responsible for the state of health system, and for the critical job it does for New Zealanders.
“I therefore urge all parties to this settlement to act in good faith, to honour the commitments they have made and to resolve this situation as quickly as possible,” said Mr Little.