The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says it’s ironic that, on the eve of the International Day of the Nurse, it had to attend a meeting with Government to defend its members’ right to be treated in good faith while negotiating their multi-employer collective agreement with the district health boards.
NZNO Industrial Services Manager Glenda Alexander said this flies in the face of the massive contribution nurses, midwives, health care assistants and kaimahi hauora in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world have made during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We applaud each and every one of these workers who has helped keep the country and our people safe," she said.
Yesterday, alongside the NZ Council of Trade Unions and other public service unions, NZNO met with Public Service Minister Hon Chris Hipkins to discuss the recent Public Service Pay Guidance that appeared to signal three years without a pay increase for most NZNO members.
Ms Alexander said members could not believe the Government would take this approach particularly after the sacrifices they have made and that many say they now plan to leave the profession or the country that values them so poorly.
"This is particularly galling given we are part way through pay negotiations that have been underway for a year and a pay equity claim that was agreed to be in place by the end of 2019. We are frustrated and angry that we honour the agreements reached in good faith but that this good faith is not reciprocated."
She said NZNO was very frank about its concerns at the meeting and that the Government did listen. It acknowledged that bargaining must be conducted in good faith and that the priority is to lift the wages of the lowest-paid.
"We agreed the latter could be achieved by speeding up settlement of the equal pay claims. This needs to happen now and the settlements achieved must be maintained so similar male occupations in the private sector, who are not subject to pay restraint, don’t leave us behind and widen the gender pay gap again."
She said NZNO has gone into negotiations before where attempts have been made to set the bargaining parameters from ‘outside the room’.
"We have always put forward our own expectations about what is fair and reasonable and have been prepared to fight for that in the past. We believe these circumstances are no different.
"Members care deeply about wellbeing, workload and equity issues. These were discussed and we expect that these issues will be addressed by the Government and that there should be no predetermined outcomes in bargaining so the parties can find agreeable solutions, working in good faith."