Whether a new pay offer by district health boards announced today meets nurses expectations or leads to industrial action will be voted on from next week.

The new pay offer remains at 2 per cent a year but shortens the length of the contract, increases the lump sum payment, brings forward the date for any pay equity settlement to 2019 and tightens the safe staffing requirements.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) in releasing the details today said the DHB Chief Executive Group met with the Director General of Health and the Minister of Health three times, including this month, in its endeavours to reach an agreement with NZNO for the about 27,000 nurses, midwives and health care assistants covered by the deal.

“It was clear there was not an ability for DHBs to provide increases above 2 per cent on the wage and salary scales unless the increases were to resolve an anomaly like the identified Senior Nurse issue or were achieved through a Pay Equity process,” said the NZNO negotiators in an update to members.

Lesley Harry, NZNO industrial advisor, said the negotiating team had not made a recommendation to members on how to vote and it was now a case of “wait and see” how the offer was received by members during the upcoming ratification meetings. “We have three weeks to wait until the outcome”. The DHBs’ negotiating team lead advocate Kevin McFadgen said the employers would make no comment about the new offer.

But in an email yesterday to NZNO, outlining the DHBs’ revised offer, McFadgen said DHBs believed the offer addressed the issues and claims brought to the bargaining table and “following mediation in January we have listened to your member’s concerns and, as such, have changed and improved our offer which we hope represents a settlement that you can present positively to your membership.”

In December NZNO members voted to reject the DHBs’ initial multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) which was widely criticised in social media by some of the 27,000 NZNO members covered by the proposed deal as being too low and not adequately reflecting the pressure and stress they had worked under in recent years. This was backed by an online survey of nurses covered by the MECA where members said their priorities were an increased pay offer, safe staffing, a shorter term for the agreement (the original offer was for a 33 month term), and a firmer timeframe for pay equity.

The new pay offer includes:

  • reducing the proposed MECA term from 33 months down to two years (from 1 August 2017 to July 31 2019)
  • a 2% pay offer on 6 November 2017 and 2% on August 6 2018 (bringing the new graduate salary from current $49,449 to $51,447 by 2018 and the step five salary from current $66,755 to $69,452)
  • additional percentage increases for designated senior nurses and midwives of 4% from 6 November 2017 and 2% from 6 August 2018. (Same as previous offer)
  • a increased lump sum offer of $1050 (up from previous offer of $350) to be paid “as soon as possible” following ratification
  • tighter requirements for implementing safe staffing Care Capacity Demand Management (CCDM) tools with a date set for all DHBs to implement CCDM by 2021 and for all DHBs to have an implementation within six months of ratifying MECA. CCDM reporting requirements now enforceable under proposed MECA
  • a commitment to start a pay equity process as soon as possible following MECA ratification and an agreement that any pay equity settlement would apply from July 1 2019 (revised offer sets date for first time).

Industrial action could follow if deal rejected

Prior to mediation the union indicated that it would not rule out using the March meetings to vote on industrial action, if a deal couldn’t be reached that it believed members would be ready to accept.

The union yesterday released a new fact sheet to members saying that if members decide by a simple majority to reject the proposed new MECA then the next step “will likely involve balloting members on taking industrial action”. In its bulletin it pointed out to members that negotiations had begun in June, a previous offer had been rejected leading to mediation, the DHBs had met with the Minister of Health several times and “significant improvements” had been made in the new proposed MECA.

“Before a strike relating to collective bargaining can proceed NZNO must hold a secret ballot of NZNO members who would become party to the strike,” said the industrial action fact sheet. It added that the general process for a strike ballot will be “notified after the results of the vote on whether we accept a proposed new MECA has been announced”.

Late last month Health Minister David Clark told Nursing Review that he understood nurses’ and other health workers hopes for better salaries under the new Government but the  reality was that “not everyone’s expectations will be met”.


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