After a year of negotiations, simmering frustration and a national strike the majority of NZNO nurses have accepted the DHBs’ fifth offer – but most see it as just a first step.
Urgent work will be needed to convince weary and wary nurses – both those whose voted for and against the offer – that the deal will actually deliver on the safe staffing and pay equity concerns that saw thousands of nurses uniting on social media, marches and strike picket lines this year.
Cee Payne, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation industrial services manager, said the online ballot results showed the offer was accepted by a “significant majority” of members. NZNO would now start working with urgency to put the deal into action particularly the DHBs delivering on the promised extra 500 staff and implementing the safe staffing Care Capacity Demand Management (CCDM) system.
DHBs spokesperson Jim Green acknowledged there was a lot of work to be done and the 20 district health boards needed to give NZNO and members confidence that they would deliver on their staffing and resourcing commitments.
It is now over a year since the current NZNO DHB agreement expired. Voting began on the fifth offer just the day after a Government-brokered safe staffing Accord between NZNO, the DHBs and the Director-General of Health.
With a sizable minority of NZNO’s DHB nurses known to have rejected the offer – fearing a loss of momentum to push home their concerns on how stretched and close to crisis the workforce was – the DHBs and NZNO are on notice that some are now seriously contemplating crossing the Tasman and many are expecting NZNO to reform its bargaining process leading up to the next talks in 2020.
With emotions running high the Nurse Florence “New Zealand, please hear our voice” Facebook page – that helped unite nurses across the country – made the decision to go offline for 24 hours following the decision announcement. “We will be taking a break to let the outcome sink in and allow time for contemplation,” said the Florence Team’s post. It added “remember to breathe”.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister Dr David Clark welcomed the settlement but accepted that there was still more to be done to better support nurses. “While today represents a conclusion of bargaining it also marks the start of a long term programme to rebuild our public health system and the status of the nursing profession,” said Ardern.
Clark said the public consistently told him “just how good our nurses are” and they deserved a settlement that “recognises the particular challenges they face, including their limited pay scale and safe staffing issues”.
At the NZNO press conference NZNO president Grant Brookes paid tribute to the “sea of purple” as NZNO members united over their safe staffing concerns leading up to the historic national strike that brought home their message.
NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku highlighted that there was “much more work to do” to secure decent pay and improved working conditions for non-DHB nurses including those employed by Māori & Iwi providers and those in primary health care, aged care and private hospitals. “We’ve a lot further to go for the profession of nursing.”
Green said the accepted agreement was a “substantial package to address the workforce issues raised by our people and part of a wider initiative to attract, develop and retain our vital nurses and midwives in their careers.”
An NZNO nurse at the press conference described the offer as “this is not the end – it’s just the beginning”. Another nurse when asked what difference she hoped the deal would make said she hoped she wouldn’t have to spend two hours trying to find nurses for the next shift and to have enough time to actually talk to her patients.
ACCEPTED DHB NZNO AGREEMENT
- Reshuffles introduction of new salary steps for nurses/midwives on basic pay scale – Step 6 stays at May 2019 and Step 7 is moved from August 2020 (which was just outside of proposed term of rejected fourth MECA offer) to May 2020. Equivalent of 12.5% for those on step 6 in August 2019 and 15.9% on step 7 in May 2020.
- National framework for ‘enforceable mechanisms’ for implementing safe staffing CCDM tools including a bi-monthly report on DHBs response to ‘real’ vacancies’ and safe staffing progress.
- Offer comes into effect from June 4 2018 and expires July 31 2020 (equivalent to three year term as last agreement expired July 31 2017)
- Funding for safe staffing initiatives. Immediate $38 million for additional 500 nursing staff across 20 DHBs, $10 million for extra DHB nursing staffing for implementing CCDM and extra $750K for SSHW Unit to help ‘fast-track’ CCDM.
- Includes pro rata $2000 lump sum payment (in lieu of back pay), increase to on-call rates and EN PDRP increase
- Includes 3% increase June 2018 + 3% August 2018 + 3% August 2019
- Includes 1% added to senior nurse/midwife pay scale in June 2018
- Adds 3% to top of community nurse/midwife pay scale May 2019 (total pay rises equivalent to 12.6% over term of MECA for nurses on top scale)
- Extra salary step for enrolled nurses May 2019 (equivalent to 3% and 12.5% total increase over term for ENs on new step)
- Extra 3% increases on all grade steps for senior nurses (equivalent to 13.6% over term for senior nurses on top step of each grade)
- Extra salary step for HCAs May 2019 (equivalent to 12.5% over term for those on new step)
- Commitment to implement pay equity negotiation outcomes from December 31 2019.