Thousands of frontline community health workers are set to receive a pay rise, Health Minister, Andrew Little announced today.
The Minister said Cabinet had agreed to on-going funding of $200 million a year so that thousands of workers in places such as aged-care facilities, hospices and Māori and Pacific health-care organisations can be paid more.
“The Government is committed to ensuring health workers are paid fairly and receive parity with others doing the same or similar work, especially given the current cost of living pressures workers and their families are under,” said Mr Little.
“Today’s announcement is good news for the estimated 20,000 people who will get a pay rise, and for the organisations employing them, which have struggled to keep staff when they can’t afford to pay as much as Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand is offering. I know this has made it very hard for them to retain nurses.”
Minister Little said the pay difference between nurses and healthcare workers in public hospitals, and many of those in what is called the funded sector (private and non-Government organisations that get Government funding to provide healthcare), was the result of the Government’s earlier actions to lift the pay of a traditionally female workforce.
“I am pleased that on our watch, this year 10,000 public hospital administration and clerical workers got an historic pay equity deal that saw some with pay rises of as much as 40%,” he said.
“We are also negotiating pay-equity agreements with midwives, allied health workers and homecare and support workers, and have boosted the pay of nurses working for Te Whatu Ora by an average 20% and have put aside $540 million a year for a pay equity settlement for them.
“It’s the right thing to do, and now it’s time to start addressing the pay rates of those health workers who don’t work for Te Whatu Ora.”
The funding will make its way to the private and non-Government employers through changes to their contracts with Te Whatu Ora and with Te Aka Whai Ora – the Māori Health Authority, Mr Little said. The Government will require the employers to use the money to fix the pay difference between them and public hospitals – $40 million will be made available in the remainder of this financial year, with $200 million a year after that.
“Aged-care facilities, hospices, homecare support and Māori and Pacific healthcare organisations will be first, because there is clear evidence that that is where the biggest pay gap is.”
“I expect these contract changes will happen in the first part of next year, follow by mental health and addiction facilities, organisations caring for the disabled and other types of residential care, and then other Government-funded health services.
“However, I have to be clear that this package will not mean significant change immediately for those working in GP practices. Decisions about what is paid to whom have to be based on hard evidence, and the data provided to me by both the Nurses Organisation and the GP organisation GenPro for that sector did not show any real evidence of pay difference at this point.
“The funding is ongoing, though, and that decision could change if evidence of disparity emerges in the future,” he said.
The Minister thanked the Aged Care Association and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation for their input into the package.
“I have worked with them to get to this point, and I am grateful for their input,” he said.