Ongoing industrial action is continuing by anaesthetic technicians around the country as pay disputes continue between their union APEX and four district health boards.

Hawke’s Bay DHB anaesthetic technicians walked off the job again from 7am today (October 24) for 24 hours leading to the postpone of 15 elective surgeries requiring general anaesthetic.

Chief executive Dr Kevin Snee said he apologised to patients for the disruption of the further strike and said operations would be rebooked as soon as practically possible.

Further industrial action is planned tomorrow at Southland Hospital with six technician members striking for 24 hours, also further strikes are planned next week and in early November at Whangarei Hospital plus techs have also taken two days of strike action at Lakes DHB over their dispute.

APEX national secretary Dr Deborah Powel says severe shortages are prompting the strike action as it had been unable to negotiate new contracts with the individual DHBs that the union believes will resolve the workforce crisis.

She said key amongst the APEX claims at Southland is for the DHB to employ one new anaesthetic technician trainee each year at Southland Hospital also calling for a minimum of nine full-time equivalent techs on the roster to cover on-call and call-back duties.

The Public Service Association says most of the anaesthetic technicians in DHBs across the country are part of its Allied, Public Health and Technical collective agreement, with members currently voting on the DHB’s first offer since the PSA Allied health agreement expired around a year ago. The PSA also agreed that training issues were aggravating the recruitment and retention of anaesthetic technicians and were creating a major workforce crisis that needed to be fixed.

Northland DHB CEO Dr Nick Chamberlain said earlier this month that APEX had declined all offers made by Northland DHB that had matched an offer accepted by its members at MidCentral DHB.  “The union is claiming that there are specific circumstances in Northland but continue to reject a process to explore number of innovative recruitment and retention options away from bargaining. It feels like this union is using the people of Northland to progress its own industrial agenda.”

Powell has said the recruitment and retention problems in Northland were not as serious as Palmerston North and APEX was negotiating around the specific circumstances of its Whangarei members.

Today she said that Northland technicians were planning to go ahead with a 24 hour strike on Wednesday October 31 and was planning to escalate action by issuing a 48 hour strike notice for November 7-8.

Meanwhile 330 members of the NZ Medical Laboratory Workers Union, division of APEX, successfully settled a new collective agreement with the Southern Community Laboratories after mediation averted a strike planned for this month.

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