A formal strike notice was sent to the 20 District Health Boards today for a 24 hour nurses’ strike on July 5 – with mediation starting on Friday for a last ditch solution attempt.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation announced on Monday that its DHB members had, after a year of negotiations and simmering frustration, voted to strongly reject the 20 district health boards’ third pay offer. This triggered off an earlier vote by nearly 30,000 nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants to today give a fortnight’s formal notice that they will walk off the job for 24 hours from 7am on July 5 and potentially also July 12. The strike notice was delivered to the 20 DHBs this afternoon prompting them to set contingency plans – in development since late March – into action.

More than 11,000 NZNO DHB members have responded within 36 hours to an urgent online survey by NZNO seeking feedback on why they rejected the deal and what specific aspects of the safe staffing and pay issues were priorities to settle the impasse.

NZNO industrial services manager Cee Payne said it was very pleased with the quick response to the survey which closes 1pm Thursday in readiness for mediation with the DHBs on Friday. “Obviously we will be clear what our members want after the survey and that will inform what we say in mediation,” she said.

DHBs’ spokesperson and Bay of Plenty DHB CEO Helen Mason has said it will do all it can do to settle the nurses’ dispute but believed the offer was an excellent one.

She said the 20 DHBs had been hoping for the best but planning for the worst and was several months into contingency planning and on receiving the strike notice today – would “absolutely ramp up” those contingency plans.

“The thing I stress with contingency planning is that from our perspective patient safety is absolutely paramount. And the safety of our staff is equally important.”

NZNO Chief Executive Memo Musa has said that strike action is a last resort but, should it go ahead, that NZNO agreed that patient safety was paramount.

The DHBs began contingency planning in late March and NZNO and the DHBs have been meeting to discuss the Code of good faith for public health sector requirement to ensure that life-preserving services are available to prevent a serious threat to life or permanent disability during any strike action.

Mason said now the strike notice was issued that individual DHBs would begin notifying affected patients of the postponement of elective surgery and other non-urgent services around the time of the strike.

She said it would also begin ensuring that the public were reassured that during the strike that people needing urgent medical treatment should not delay coming to hospital or dialing 111.  People should also continue to engage with their local general practice, pharmacist or phone the 24-hour Healthline for advice from a registered nurse.

“We want to make sure that people are reassured now – so nobody is not taking up the opportunity for urgent medical care.”

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1 COMMENT

  1. Helen Mason and NZNO agree that “Patients’ safety is absolutely paramount”. That does not reassure me. It is a red herring. It is certain that many patients’ condition will worsen, and it is quite likely that somebody will die, when nurses (or doctors) go on strike. If you really think about it, isn’t it quite immoral to use sick and dying human beings as bargaining chips for one’s own selfish gains? It is also unnecessary : Some of us are old enough to remember a time when nurses weren’t allowed to strike. When I began nursing (psychiatric) in 1959 I was told that striking was illegal. Nursing was an “essential public service” – like police and army. The Public Service Association, to their eternal shame, unilaterally broke that agreement with government.

    I believe that nurses’ and doctors’ unions should aim to return to similar arrangements with Government – and with the Opposition, of course. There is no real reason why such agreement cannot be reached.

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