The pay offer on the table for DHBs’ striking midwives is “really, really good deal” including an agreement to implement any pay equity settlement from the end of 2019, says DHBs’ spokesperson Jim Green.

About 1150 DHB midwives represented by midwifery union MERAS yesterday started a fortnight of “two hour strikes twice a day’ industrial action across the 20 district health boards after rejecting a pay deal that didn’t include a differential between the pay scales of registered midwives (RMs) and registered nurses (RNs).

Green said DHBs were well aware that RMs and RNs were different professions and had recognised by agreeing to a separate pay equity process for midwives and setting a date of end of 2019 for when pay equity would be implemented.

He said he could not pre-suppose that the two pay equity claims would see a pay differential appear between RNs and RMs but everybody knew they were two different professions.

“But I think there probably will be differences…”

Green understood that DHB employed midwives would build their case on the pay equity comparison work already done by self-employed midwives.

“I’m presuming that the pay equity process for midwives will be looking at the dynamics of their job and comparing that with male-dominated professions with the same work dimensions and then look at the pay rates and terms of employment.”

Meanwhile he said DHBs were saying that the offer on the table – nine per cent over the next 18 months (for a contract covering a three year period since the last agreement expired) plus two pay step increases and a lump sum payment – was a “really, really good deal including good components (like the pay equity process) which would happen over the next 12 months or so.”

He believed the midwives focus should be on progressing the pay equity claim and work was also underway outside of the pay negotiations on resolving workforce shortage and supply issues that were clearly important to both DHBs and midwives. That included the Safer Staffing Accord negotiated between NZNO, DHBs and the Ministry of Health which was exploring options on full employment of all midwifery as well as nursing graduates.

MERAS, the union for the 1150 striking midwives have described the DHBs’ recent settlement of a deal with a breakaway junior doctors’ union as making a mockery of the DHBs’ refusal to negotiate separate pay scales for registered midwives and registered nurses.

Green said he did not see the DHBs’ negotiations with new 100 member junior doctor’s union, the Specialty Trainees of New Zealand (SToNZ), as setting a precedent for separate pay scales as the DHBs had yet to settle a deal with the established juniors doctors’ union, the New Zealand Resident Doctors Association (NZRDA). “So they (the negotiations) are not comparable.”

Green said the DHBS are urging MERAS to come back to talks by either entering facilitation with the DHBS or returning to mediation to resolve the dispute. He said hospitals had contingency plans to ensure women, their babies and families had the care they need during the rolling strike action.


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