The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and the 20 district health boards both put out separate press releases at around 9pm last night to say that the second day of mediation had ended without agreement.

Mediation had resumed on Monday after ending mid-afternoon on Friday with the aim of DHBs working over the weekend to come up with an offer that might settle the impasse.

But NZNO said in its statement that mediation had concluded shortly before 7pm last night without the union being able to reach agreement with District Health Boards on a settlement that the NZNO MECA bargaining team was prepared to recommend to members.

In its separate statement the DHBs said while the failed mediation was “a setback”  they would continue to do everything they could to settle this agreement and avoid strikes.

The DHBs and NZNO have asked the Employment Relations Authority for urgent facilitation under the Employment Relations Act 2000 in a further last-ditch attempt to resolve the bargaining impasse. The DHBs said this would involve the Authority making a recommendation for settlement.

The mediation attempts and upcoming facilitation follow NZNO announcing on June 18 that it’s about 29,000 nurse, midwife and healthcare assistant DHB members had voted to reject the DHBs’ third offer followed by NZNO on June 20 delivering a strike notice to the DHBs for a 24 hour strike on July 5. (A follow-up notice is due to be delivered this Wednesday for a second 24-hour strike on July 12.)

The DHBs/NZNO Nursing and Midwifery Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA) expired on July 31 last year. Negotiations have now been underway for more than a year to try and find a settlement that will resolve nearly a decade of building frustration in the nursing sector that their pay had fallen behind and safe staffing solutions sought since the early 2000s have still not been implemented.

The Government has said there is no extra money to boost the offer of more than $500 million over three years (2017-2020) made to the nearly 30,000 NZNO DHB members.  Health Minister Dr David Clark has said nurses’ frustration was understandable after feeling undervalued, but “you cannot fix nine years of underfunding in one pay round”.

NZNO has said it will continue with the preparations for strike action on the Thursday 5th and Thursday 12th July, including preparations for life-preserving services and national emergency management processes. DHBs’ spokesperson Helen Mason said DHBs had constructively engaged with the NZNO in the contingency planning process.

“Our aim is to keep everyone safe during any potential strike – patients and staff alike – and that means significant changes to normal services. Each DHB will be in touch with their affected patients to provide more information on this.”

Ms Mason reiterated that if the July 5 strike goes ahead, people should not delay seeking medical treatment and go to hospital if the matter is urgent. They should dial 111 for emergencies or an ambulance.

For all other matters people should do what they normally do and visit their GP or visit a local pharmacy, and free medical advice is available 24/7 through Healthline (phone 0800 Healthline – 0800 611 116).

Both NZNO and the DHBs said they would not be making any further comment at this stage.

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