Frustrated, wet and undervalued nurses are rallying nationwide, in the #HealthNeedsNursing campaign, that the nurses’ union says will continue regardless of an expected announcement this week on the Prime Minister’s panel proposal.
Wellington nurses kickstarted the fortnight of protest ‘rallies for health’ at the Wellington Railway Station and Auckland nurses braved the rain to rally early this morning at Middlemore Hospital before starting their day shift or after coming off night shift.
The #HealthNeedsNursing campaign was put in place by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) after its district health board nurses, midwives and health care assistants voted last month voted to reject the 20 DHBs’ pay offer as falling short of making up for underfunding and understaffing in the health system.
Cee Payne, NZNO’s industrial services manager for the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, said Wellington nurses yesterday connected with thousands of Wellingtonians and this morning’s Middlemore rally was also “hugely successful”.
“We are very buoyed by the fact that the public are supporting us as obviously the goal of these actions are not only to engage with the public but also build their support for the campaign to encourage the government to prioritise the re-building of a quality health system. Part of that is investing in the nursing and midwifery workforce which is the largest health professional workforce.”
Ashley Bloomfield, a spokesperson for the 20 district health boards who are currently in a pay talks stalemate with the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, stressed that patient services would not be affected by the rallies underway over the next two next weeks including protests outside hospitals.
Payne said bad weather would not put off frustrated nurses during the two week campaign and stressed that the campaign, and steps to finalising an industrial action ballot, would continue regardless of other processes that might be put in place to help resolve the impasse. “We are not going to stop is the message,” said Payne. “It is important that our members continue to be visible, that we continue to support them and we get a good outcome to this DHB MECA (multi-employer collective agreement).
Bloomfield said early this week that DHBs were still working with NZNO and Ministry of Health on the Prime Minister’s recommendation on an independent panel to help solve the current pay impasse and a way of addressing nurses’ pay equity and workload issues. The two parties had not commented since holding an urgent meeting on the proposal on March 27 but Bloomfield said they were working on how to finalise the panel and how it would work.
“The nurses’ union has made it clear that industrial action is a last resort – we agree and hope the Independent Panel will help find an agreement and avoid disrupting health services. I think nurses and midwives would expect us to explore all options before they consider strike action.”
Payne confirmed that it was still working with DHBs on the Prime Minister’s proposal and was looking to make an announcement later this week on NZNO’s decision on the independent panel process proposed by Jacinda Ardern.
Meanwhile Middlemore Hospital nurses were also to hold a rally during the shift changeover this afternoon starting at 2pm. Caitlin Francey, an NZNO delegate for Counties-Manukau Health said the rallies were a chance to “walk the talk’’ without compromising the care of patients.
“This rally is a signal to government that we feel undervalued and, feel so strongly about this that we are willing to strike if there are no improvements in pay and our working conditions.
“There are very strong feelings about this. We feel let down by the underinvestment in nursing and the collective agreement offer.
“Change is afoot, there is definitely a mood to speak up now, we feel the MECA offer was unacceptable and adds salt to the wound when we are working under pressure in an underfunded health system,” Caitlin Francey said.
Fellow NZNO delegate Caroline Donaldson agreed saying that the impasse had given nurses the chance to speak out about feeling undervalued and that the rejected MECA offer was not enough to cover living cost increases so nurses were being attracted overseas.
Details on the rallies can be found on the campaign’s Facebook events page
April 9-12 Wellington Railway Station
April 10 Middlemore Hospital
April 12 Waitakere Hospital
April 13 Whangarei Hospital
April 13 Hagley Park, Christchurch
April 13 Dunedin Hospital
April 17 Gisborne Hospital
April 17 Middlemore Hospital
April 18 Hutt Valley Hospital
April 19 Auckland City Hospital
April 20 North Shore Hospital
April 20 Waikato Hospital
April 21 Palmerston Hospital