Stressed but determined nurses are voting on striking for two days in July unless the Prime Minister’s independent panel comes up with an offer that makes them feel valued, says nurses’ union NZNO.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation today announced that much anticipated secret strike ballot will go-ahead from Monday with its district health board nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants voting on whether to take two 24 hour strikes on July 5 and 12.

Cee Payne, the NZNO’s industrial services manager said it was now beholden on the independent panel, the Government and the 20 DHBs to be “courageous” and resolve the dispute to prevent a strike in winter.

“The mood of nurses is such that it is going to take some effort for nurses to feel they are valued again,” said Payne.

The proposed strike dates have been set to allow time for NZNO to consider the recommendations from the independent panel set up to try and resolve the current impasse and decide whether to present the resulting DHB offer back to members.

A DHBs’ spokesperson Helen Mason says the 20 DHBs remain optimistic that the independent panel process will find a pathway to address the pay and workload issues raised.

“The frustration of NZNO members has been made very clear over the last two weeks of rallies and we understand the purpose of the ballot about possible industrial action,” said Mason who added that DHBs were strongly committed to exploring all options for a settlement.

The strike ballot gives NZNO’s DHB members the option to vote online or by post. The ballot is open for 30 days in accordance with the NZNO constitution and closes no later than 5pm on Friday 25 May 2018. The postal ballot will need to be returned by Tuesday 22 May 2018.

“The commitment to secure safe patient care and a salary structure that incentivises nurses to remain in the profession has led the committee to this important decision. Strike action is a last resort if a settlement acceptable to our members cannot be achieved” said Cee Payne.

The DHBs started working on a contingency plan for possible strike action shortly after it was announced on March 26 that NZNO’s district health board nurses, midwives and healthcare assistant members voted to reject the 20 DHBs’ revised pay offer.

Health Central is seeking a response from the DHBs.

The DHB’s spokeperson Dr Ashley Bloomfield earlier said that the DHBs are supporting the independent panel process as a path to avoid disrupting health services and finding a mechanism to address the pay and staffing issues.

The first and to date only national strike was held in 1989 but regional strikes were held in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

NZNO chief executive Memo Musa said as soon as notice of strike action is given to the DHBs they must develop a contingency plan and take all reasonable and practicable steps to ensure continued provision of essential or life preserving service if strike action occurs.

“The statutory Code of Good Faith for the public health sector requires employers to provide for patients safety by ensuring that life preserving services are available to prevent a serious threat to life or permanent disability during any strike action,”  Musa said.

The DHBs’ press statement in response to the strike ballot focused on its hopes of resolving  the dispute before strike action.

“DHBs acknowledge the issues raised are important to nurses and midwives and we want to give them confidence that we can address them,” said Mason. She said DHBs were focused on delivering more and better care to our communities including growing and supporting the workforce to meet needs of a growing population with increasingly complex conditions and chronic illnesses.

“Nursing staff are critical to that and we are committed to finding a solution that recognises and starts to address their concerns,” she said.

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