A one year pay deal delivering a four per cent pay rise has been ratified by 80 per cent of primary health care nurses negotiated in November last year.

About 3200 primary health care nurses, receptionists and administrators are covered by the multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) between the nurses’ union NZNO and 500 general practices.

While the vast majority of voting members supported the deal many have also expressed disappointment on social media that the deal falls short of pay parity with their public hospital colleagues.

Chris Wilson, NZNO industrial advisor, said she believed many members recognised the significance of the union successfully securing for the first time an agreement with the New Zealand Medical Association – which represents about 480 of the 500 practices – to start jointly lobbying from next month for extra funding for the primary care sector.

She said it was recognition from NZMA and NZNO that to be able to recruit and retain nurses in primary health that extra funding was needed for the sector so it could meet salary expectations in the wake of the DHB settlement.

NZNO said the shift to online voting was ‘very successful’ with an almost doubling of the participation rate compared to the 2016 postal vote but the actual number of members covered by the agreement that voted is not known.

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 short term nature of the deal means negotiations for a new deal will be initiated in July and talks start gain in August.

The just agreed to MECA 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 for the basic registered nurse pay scale over the DHB MECA’s three year term. The new step 6 comes into effect in May this year – which will bring public hospital nurses basic salary to just short of $73,000 – and a step 7 in May next year will bring it up to $75,000 for nurses with seven years experience or more.

The parties have also 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.

Meanwhile Wilson said nine practices with NZNO members did not meet the legal requirement to participate in the collective bargaining process. She said NZNO was considering its legal options regarding these practices.

Also there were eight practices that took part in the negotiations which voted to not ratify the offer.  Since the initial vote two of those had amended their vote to yes and she said it would be canvassing issues with those practices in support of their members.

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