Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Pay win for nurses

A new employment agreement for nurses working in public hospitals has been reached – with nurses to get an immediate $5,800 pay rise.

“I am very pleased that the hard work of the Nurses Organisation and District Health Boards has led to a settlement that both can support,” Health Minister, Andrew Little said today.

“This deals with the immediate issue of making sure nurses get a pay rise, but I also acknowledge that we still have to conclude their pay-equity claim.

“Nurses have been under-paid and under-valued for a long time, and the Government is committed to doing something about it.

“Pay equity is what will really make a difference to nurses and others and I look forward to progress in those negotiations, which are currently under way.”

Other issues of concern to nurses, including staffing levels, were also being addressed, Mr Little said.

“Nurses, rightly, are worried about things like safe-staffing levels and filling the many vacant nursing positions right across the health system,” he said.

“The review I ordered in August of the Safe Staffing Accord is well under way, and action is being taken to recruit nurses into those vacant positions.”

In a statement, the NZ Nurses’ Organisation (NZNO) that 83% of its 53,000 employees – of which 32,000 are employed by District Health Boards – voted in favour of the collective agreement.

The pay rise is to be backdated to September 6, 2021.

“We have been in negotiations for 15 months, so it is great to receive something that both addresses pay issues and makes important progress towards safe staffing,” said Lead Advocate and Industrial Adviser, David Wait.

“Most of the pay increase comes in the form of down payments on our Pay Equity settlement, a separate process due for completion by the end of November, but the early lump sum payments are substantial.

“We also have a DHB contractual obligation to safe staffing, with a legally enforceable escalation pathway when members’ concerns aren’t addressed. Together with new employment commitments these are steps towards addressing the staffing crisis and making nursing an attractive profession again.”

Mr Wait said he was extremely proud of the way members had engaged with the campaign for better wages and conditions over many months.

“There is still a lot to do as we work with the DHBs to implement the changes, and members remain wary of their employers’ promises, so the DHBs have a real opportunity here to begin regaining the trust of their employees.”

“How the DHBs respond regarding safe staffing over the next year will play a big role in our next collective agreement negotiations, so I encourage them to take this opportunity to do that,” he said.

Today’s ratified MECA applies to the period 1 August 2020 to 31 October 2022. NZNO will next initiate bargaining late next year.

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