The New Zealand Nurses Organisation and district health boards went into mediation earlier this month after more than 80 per cent of nurses, midwives and health care assistants attending ratification meetings in May voted to reject an earlier offer.
That initial unpopular offer had been for a five per cent pay offer stretched out over more than three years with a one per cent increase this year (backdated to March), a two per cent increase in May 2016 and another two per cent pay rise in July 2017.
NZNO negotiators said that its DHB members had told them they were ‘particularly unhappy’ with just a one per cent increase this year and the overall pay increase being spread over an extended time.
The new offer is for a two per cent salary increase (backdated to 6 July) and a further two per cent increase in July next year. The term of the contract is also shorter – starting from the date of ratification (the earliest possible date being late August) until the end of July 2017 – compared with the earlier offer of an expiry date of June 30 2018.
Negotiators have informed members that it believed this latest offer was “the best that can be achieved through the bargaining process”.
The new deal addresses some of the concerns raised by members around discretionary sick leave applications.
The terms of settlement now includes an agreement that “DHBs financial position or, within reason, other statutory leave balances” should not be used to deter staff applying for discretionary leave or being granted discretionary leave.
Also agreed was that the joint National Bipartite Action Group (BAG) would develop guidelines for the discretionary leave approval process to “ensure transparency, fairness and consistency of decision-making”.
The National BAG is also to “explicitly consider” the issue of patient assaults on DHB staff as part of its current work on developing guidelines for violence in the workplace. (The National BAG includes representatives from other health unions, including the PSA and the Association of Salaried Medical Specialists.)
The new offer still includes an increase in PDRP (profession development recognition programme) allowances of $500 a year for registered nurses and midwives but the increases for the PDRP expert/leadership allowance levels did not meet full parity with the levels negotiated for PSA members.
NZNO DHB members will now vote whether to accept or reject the new offer at a series of ratification meetings being held across the country’s public hospitals from 3 August to 21 August.