A strike notice was issued today by Nelson-Marlborough anaesthetic technicians who are following in the footsteps of Northland, Hawke’s Bay and Lakes APEX techs in striking over a pay impasse.

Northland District Health Board techs belonging to health sector union APEX were striking today for 24 hours – their sixth day of strike action – and planning to strike again on Thursday.

APEX represents anaesthetic techs at eight district health boards with six DHBs currently in stalled pay talks over offers to the workforce, which both employers and unions acknowledge is facing a serious shortfall with sometimes a flow-on impact on elective surgery.

The Public Service Association says most of the anaesthetic technicians in DHBs across the country are part of its Allied, Public Health and Technical collective agreement which has just been ratified by DHB PSA members. That deal largely mirrors the NZNO deal which is the equivalent of a 9 per cent pay rise over the life of the contract (the equivalent of 3 per cent a year a year) plus a pro rata $2000 lump sum. Extra steps in the pay scale would see anaesthetic technicians currently on top of the additional progress step scale see their pay increase from the current $68,707 to $80,292 by August 2020, a 16.8 per cent pay increase.

Luke Coxon, an APEX advocate, says most of the six DHBs they are in negotiations with are presenting APEX with offers based on the PSA/NZNO deals saying they are unable to offer more.  He said most recently Northland DHB  had refused requests to return to bargaining and mediation, with the Northland DHB chief executive telling the union there was no point in attending mediation “as any offer from the DHB requires sign off from several cabinet ministers”.

Health Central has contacted Northland DHB for comment and is awaiting a response. Coxon said the DHB is only required to consult the Ministry of Health and the union has indicated it is happy to have a Ministry representative at mediation but that offer had not been accepted.

Coxon said MidCentral DHB APEX techs had accepted a pay offer similar to the PSA deal as the DHB’s offer met some additional claims made by the union members.  But at Hawke’s Bay, where members had also taken several days of action, he said the DHBs’ new salary scale offer was equivalent to less than the PSA deal for many members on the existing APEX scale.

He said Nelson-Marlborough tech members had just issued a strike notice today for a 24 hour strike on December 5 after not receiving an offer after nearly 13 months of negotiations.

Lakes DHB, where members had taken two 24 hour strikes, have requested facilitation from the Employment Relations Authority and negotiations were also stalled at Southern and Canterbury DHBs.

Meanwhile APEX was going into mediation on Wednesday November 21 with Waikato DHB after more than 50 APEX physiotherapists returned to work this morning after a 24 hour strike yesterday.

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