Allied health, junior doctors and clerical staff are amongst another 20,000 plus district health board workers seeking pay rises and better workloads pay talks currently underway.
The 20 DHBs are currently in a stalemate with the about 27,000 nurses, midwives and health care assistants covered by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation collective agreement over pay and safe staffing with strike action also likely if there is not a breakthrough shortly.
But a further four sets of pay talks are also underway between the DHBs and three other unions representing more than 20,000 allied health and technical staff, junior doctors, mental health & public health nurses, and DHB clerical staff. Plus midwives covered by the College of Midwives’ MERAS (Midwifery Employee Representation and Advisory Service).
A DHBs spokesperson confirmed that talks were continuing positively with the Public Service Association, Resident Doctors’ Association and MERAS.
Warwick Jones, PSA’s Assistant National Secretary, said PSA DHB members had raised the same issues as NZNO staff around insufficient staffing undermining the quality of patient care and leading to staff fatigue and burnout.
“They have told us countless stories of unfilled vacancies, unpaid overtime, unsafe working environments and struggles with fatigue, stress and burnout,” said Jones.
Ashok Shankar, a PSA national organiser said the about 9000 allied health and technical staff were the largest group affected by the talks PSA currently has underway in five collective agreements covering three occupational groupings. Allied Health and Technical staff in the Auckland region took strike action in late 2015 and were to strike again in April 2016 before settling their current agreement which expired late last year.
The allied health and technical agreement covers 45 different occupational groups including physiotherapists and occupational therapists. Shankar says all the PSA negotiations have in common with NZNO a focus on workload issues, a reasonable pay rise and issues around training and professional development.
Workload was a major issue for allied health and technical staff, said Shankar, as for these sectors in particular there did not seem to be enough clinicians, particularly senior clinicians, to hire. Mental health – particularly in the larger centres – was also struggling to recruit enough staff and faced the additional issue of dealing with violence and aggression from the people they cared for.
For allied health and technical he said there was a major focus on a career framework to create a structure for a senior pay scale and how people can progress through their career to advanced/senior clinician and advanced technician roles and pay.
Shankar said pay equity was another big issue for members and PSA was vigorously pursuing a pay equity claim for all its clerical/administration workers for pay equity and similarly for nurses, allied health and technical staff.
The next largest negotiations were for the about 5000 PSA clerical and administration staff covered by the Northern collective agreement with talk dates set for April and further dates were hoped to be set soon for the ongoing. allied health and technical and the mental health and public health nurses talks.
$3.2 billion pay talks
DHBs estimate that the current pay roll for workers covered by the NZNO agreement as $1.7 billion with the other five negotiations adding up to a further nearly $1.5 billion.
A further 10 multi-employment collective agreements are up for re-negotiation in the next 18 months worth a further nearly $1.7 billion (the largest share of that is the $1.336 billion payroll affected by the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists’ agreement which expires in 2020).
Which brings the total DHBs payroll affected by these collective agreement negotiations up to about $5 billion – just short of a third of the annual health budget for 2017-18 of $16.7 billion.
Approximate annual cost of DHB MECAs currently under negotiation* NZNO Nursing and Midwifery MECA $1,707 million
Resident Doctors Association (RDA) MECA $503 million
PSA Allied, Public Health & Technical MECA (Auckland region) $223 million
PSA Allied, Public Health & Technical MECA (rest of NZ) $348 million
PSA Mental Health & Public Health Nursing MECA (Auckland region) $116 million
PSA Mental Health & Public Health Nursing MECA (rest of NZ) $101 million
PSA Northern Clerical $128 million
MERAS (midwives) MECA $52 million
*The estimated annual salary bills are calculated based on DHBs’ recent payroll data for the whole workforce potentially covered by each MECA (i.e. includes non-union members).