After nearly four months of negotiations, a new contract deal has been struck between the 20 district health boards and nursing union NZNO and is now going to the vote.

Details of the deal – agreed to by the negotiating parties yesterday – are not yet available but NZNO said an update would be released to members prior to ratification meetings getting underway from November 20 onwards.

The proposed new DHB/NZNO multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) will cover about 27,000 registered nurse, enrolled nurse, midwife and healthcare assistant members of NZNO working for the 20 DHBs.

Kevin McFadgen, the DHBs lead advocate for the MECA negotiations, told Nursing Review that the negotiated deal would be presented to DHB representatives next week, but he was “fairly confident” it would be approved by the DHBs.

McFadgen said the safe staffing Care Capacity Demand Management (CCDM) system was part of the negotiated deal. He said there was also a possible pathway for progressing the pay equity claim tabled by NZNO at the start of the negotiations.

Lesley Harry, the NZNO’s industrial advisor, was unavailable but a MECA update on the NZNO’s website said the bargaining team would meet on November 8 to “work through” the details of the employer’s offer ready to present to members prior to the ratification meetings scheduled from November 20 to December 8.

Harry also published a blog today expressing concern about social media being used by some to attempt to “misinform and influence” decisions during the negotiations.

“NZNO has a responsibility to uphold its democratic decision-making processes and is obliged not to be swayed by influences outside of those processes, including comments on social media,” said Harry in the NZNO blog.

“NZNO has an obligation to act in good faith during bargaining with both employers and members. Suggestions on social media that members have in the past been coerced to vote in a particular way is incorrect and unhelpful.”

She stressed that a recommendation from the negotiating team and informing members of the options did “not equate to telling members how to vote”. She added that any decision to take industrial action was a collective one and was not taken lightly. “Some comments on social media suggest that strike action may occur at whim and without the need to follow due process, this is simply not the case.”

Harry said the voting options to be presented at the upcoming secret ballot ratification meetings were likely to be similar to those put to the 2015 meetings, which outlined what would happen if the offer was accepted (complete and sign the MECA as soon as possible), the offer was rejected (seek mediation to attempt to improve the offer). If an improved offer was not achieved, the team would come back to members with support for an action plan that might include a ballot on some form of industrial action.

The previous DHB/NZNO MECA expired on July 31. That two-year contract included a two per cent pay increase in July 2015 and a further two per cent in July 2016. In 2015 the negotiating team did not recommend the initial offer and – based on feedback from members at the ratification meetings which rejected the offer – negotiated an improved offer, which was passed at the second round of ratification meetings.

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