General practices and the nurses’ union NZNO have agreed to jointly lobby Government for more funding to boost practice nurses’ pay as part of a one year deal that nurses started voting on this week.

More than 500 general practice employers – most represented by the New Zealand Medical Association (NZMA) – have ratified the deal settled with NZNO in early November.

The deal – for a four per cent pay increased for registered and enrolled nurses and three per cent increase for medical receptionists/administration staff – is backdated to November 1 in a deal that expires on August 31 this year.

The offer will bring the new step five salary for practice nurses to $33.43 an hour (the equivalent of $69,534 a year and up from the current $66,851 a year) and a new nurse team leader/coordinator pay rate of $35.50 an hour ($73,840 a year).

The new NZNO DHB multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) ratified last year after a lengthy pay dispute and strike action was for the equivalent of a three per cent pay increase a year plus the addition of two extra pay steps (the new step 6 that comes into effect in May this year and a step 7 in May next year) for the basic registered nurse pay scale over the MECA’s three year term. It also includes a commitment to negotiating pay equity and implementing the outcomes from the end of this year.

Nurses on social media are mixed about the offer with a number disappointed that it does not bring pay parity with their DHB colleagues and doesn’t include extra pay steps.

In a bulletin to members the NZNO negotiation team said it had not given up on adding extra steps to the primary health MECA and were “insistent” that the new steps would need to be there in the future.

“This is one of the reasons there was agreement to go with a one year term for the PHC MECA and a good annual % increase. We will consequently be seeking the new steps in the new 2019 PHC MECA.”

It said that the DHBs were only able to offer the new RN steps when the Government increased the funding and that part of the primary health MECA was an agreement for NZNO and NZMA to jointly lobby government as soon as possible (no later than next month) to increase funding to the primary health care sector.

“This is the first time your PHC MECA employers have formally stated ‘there is a need to increase funding to be able to recruit and retain nurses and to meet expectations regarding nursing salaries following the DHB settlement’,” said the NZNO negotiators.

The parties had alo agreed to meet by March 31 2020 to discuss the outcomes of the DHB/NZNO pay equity process that was due to be concluded by December 31 this year. They are also to undertake a joint exercise this year to scope the nature of the nurse practitioner and designated RN prescriber roles.

Voting on the primary health NZNO MECA closes in mid-March.

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