The nearly 30,000 district health board (DHB) members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) have received the first DHB offer in their multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) negotiations, which began last year. In a survey of the affected membership, the overwhelming feedback was that this offer would be rejected out of hand.
These nurses, midwives, health care assistants (HCAs) and kaimahi hauora say the offer fails to recognise the tremendous workload and highly pressurised working conditions they endure and will
do nothing to address the DHB staffing crisis that puts themselves and patients in peril.
Lead Advocate and NZNO Industrial Advisor David Wait says members had until Sunday 11 April to provide their feedback on the package that offered little more than an annualised increase of just 1.38 percent for most.
"Because the clear majority of respondents said the offer was completely unacceptable, we will proceed straight to mediation with the DHBs while we meet with members to decide on our next steps."
Wait said nurses have been historically undervalued because they work in a female-dominated profession, but that this was about much more than just money.
"So much is asked of our members who step up and give their all to the point of exhaustion over and over. Meanwhile, their employers persistently fail to provide promised safe staffing levels.
"There is a DHB staffing crisis that has created unsafe working conditions for nursing staff that compromises patient safety. This offer completely fails to acknowledge that fact and will do nothing to attract new people to the profession. Nurses can clearly see this, and it hurts."
Auckland registered nurse Neil Warrington said nurses are feeling flat, demoralised and let down.
"This will not enhance the profession in any way. I can’t think of anyone who would look at this offer and say yes, nursing is the job for me.
"A lot of nurses are looking at moving overseas to work, especially now that the borders with Australia are open again. They believe they will be much better off over there."
David Wait said members put forward 63 claims to the DHBs with the core issues around pay, better sick leave and accountability over safe staffing, but that much of what was asked for has been ignored.
"That is not really a negotiation. It’s just the same short-sighted thinking that relies on the goodwill and compassion of nurses who deserve goodwill and compassion themselves. For all our sakes, let’s hope funding can be found for a much more worthy offer."