An announcement is expected on Friday on the likely go-ahead of a long anticipated strike ballot where district health board nurses will get to vote on industrial action – including the possible first national strike in 30 years.
DHB national delegates of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation met yesterday to discuss and decide on what industrial action options should go to the vote in the online ballot.
Meanwhile late last week the independent panel set up to try and resolve the current impasse between the 20 DHBs and NZNO’s DHB members and reduce the risk of a winter strike by nurses was announced and set up a deadline of mid-May to come up with recommendations. NZNO gave the green light to the panel process, suggested by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, but remained committed to its ongoing #HealthNeedsNursing protest rallies and progressing with plans to ballot its members on taking strike action in support of its call for safe staffing and fair pay.
It is unclear yet what details of the ballot will be released tomorrow but it is expected that the online secret ballot (with a postal option) will go up promptly and is likely to remain open for around four weeks. If the ballot comes out in favour of taking strike action then NZNO has to issue a formal strike notice to the 20 DHBs to allow them to prepare for nurses walking off the job. And the two parties have to follow the process outlined in the Code of good faith for public health sector to ensure that life preserving services are available to prevent a serious threat to life or permanent disability during any strike action.
The DHBs started working on a contingency plan for possible strike action shortly after it was announced on March 26 that NZNO’s district health board nurses, midwives and healthcare assistant members voted to reject the 20 DHBs’ revised pay offer.
The DHB’s spokeperson Dr Ashley Bloomefield are supporting the independent panel process as a path to avoid disrupting health services and finding a mechanism to address the pay and staffing issues.
The first and to date only national strike was held in 1989 but regional strikes were held in the late 1990s and early 2000s.