Both the nurses’ union NZNO and district health boards are not commenting today following meeting at short notice yesterday at the prompting of the Prime Minister.
The meeting yesterday afternoon, between bargaining representatives of the 20 DHBs and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation, was to discuss initial thoughts on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s suggestion of an independently chaired panel to help resolve the pay talks without industrial action.
NZNO on Monday announced that the 27,000 nurses, midwives and health care assistants covered by the DHB NZNO collective agreement had rejected the latest pay offer and strike action was likely on the cards if a settlement could not be reached that met nurses’ concerns over pay and safe staffing issues.
Cee Payne, NZNO’s industrial services manager, said this morning that both the union and DHBs had agreed to not comment following Tuesday’s meeting. She would also not comment on whether they were planning to meet again. A DHBs spokesperson was unavailable to comment this morning.
Speaking prior to Tuesday’s meeting Payne said NZNO had already scheduled a bargaining strategy day today with NZNO staff to be followed by a DHB national delegates meeting in mid-April which would make the final decision on whether to pursue a strike ballot.
“We will see where we are in relation to the bargaining at that point of time,” said Payne. She said DHB members at present wanted the union to hold a strike ballot and the union did not want to step away from a back-up strategy for settling the agreement if the Prime Minister’s suggested process did not succeed. If the go-head was given for a strike ballot in mid-April then any resulting strike action is unlikely to occur until about a month or more after voting begins.
Ashley Bloomfield, the spokesperson for the 20 DHBs, said prior to Tuesday’s meeting that the DHBs were anticipating that strike action wouldn’t happen because NZN0 had expressed “their strong preference to have the deal settled” and that “industrial action – in their words and I agree – is a last resort”.
But he said in the meantime the DHBs would be entering into detailed contingency planning in the event there was industrial action and would be working with NZNO to determine what life-preserving services would continue to be offered by nurses during any strike action.
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