As nurses and District Health Boards go into mediation the Government has confirmed that up to 5000 mental health and addiction support workers will get a pay equity boost backdated to July last year.

The Government in February agreed to negotiate extending last year’s Care and Support Pay Equity Settlement agreement to include community mental health and addiction support workers and has now announced a $173.5 million settlement extension to be implemented over a five-year term.

The unions who argued the case for mental health support workers – after they were missed out of last year’s July 1 settlement that gave pay rises of 15-50 per cent to 55,000 workers in Government-funded aged care, home support and disability sectors ­– said the announcement would help recruit and retain workers urgently needed in the stretched mental health sector.

“Our members stood together and now they’re getting what they deserve,”

said Public Service Association (PSA) Assistant National Secretary Kerry Davies. The deal will now go out to ratification meetings around the country so mental health and addiction workers can vote on the settlement offer.

Clark said the Government was committed to pay equity and lifting wages, particularly for its lowest paid workers.

He said the negotiated settlement would see nearly half of the estimated 5000 workers get an increase of more than $3 per hour –  an extra about $120 a week before tax for a fulltime worker. A further 20 percent of workers, based on their experience and qualifications, would get an increase of more than $5 per hour or around an extra $200 for a 40-hour week. The pay equity increase is backdated to when the original settlement came into effect on July 1 last year.

“Ensuring our mental health and addiction workers are paid what they deserve will help deliver a robust workforce,” said Clark. The extension of the settlement will be paid by an increase to Vote Health.  The Budget in May included a ‘tagged contingencies’ fund of $46 million for 2017-18 to cover wage negotiations in process – including pay equity claims and district health board nurses and allied health pay negotiations. A further  $360 million was ‘tagged’ for 2018-19.

PSA Mental Health Committee co-convenor Pollyanna Alo said the settlement meant mental health and addiction support workers like her would feel valued for the work they do.”This means everything to me,” she says.”Now support workers throughout New Zealand are now able to feed their families, put petrol in the car and just enjoy the odd treat without a stranglehold on their finances.”

E tū Equal Pay Coordinator, Yvette Taylor said the deal was a promise kept by the new Government. “We know from speaking to our members in this sector that many earn too little to live decently,” she said. “This will be a relief, and a recognition of the vital work they do in our communities.”

Meanwhile representatives of the 20 DHBs and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation were in mediation today in a last ditch attempt to avert a July 20 strike by the nearly 30,000 nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants covered by the NZNO DHB agreement.  The DHBs’ third offer – a $500 million deal over three years including 3 x 3 per cent pay increases plus extra pay steps for experienced nurses ­– was rejected at the beginning of the week by NZNO members as being too little too late for nurses concerned about unsafe staffing and loss of pay parity.

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