Health workers vote to join strike

LISA KNIGHT
Last updated 12:00 06/08/2014

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Almost 300 MidCentral health workers will join nearly 12,000 others throughout the country in strike action next month.

Members of the Public Service Association voted in favour of industrial action after they were offered a 0.7 per cent pay increase per year and no movement on other issues including training and professional development.

PSA spokesman Asher Goldman said 293 members at the MidCentral District Health Board were affected by the strike notices, including mental health and public health nurses, and the allied/technical group, which covers 45 different occupations, including psychologists, physiotherapists, dental technicians, occupational therapists and anaesthetic technicians.

The four pieces of strike action are set to take place between August 25 and September 10.

MidCentral human resources manager Anne Amoore said the DHB had not received any strike notices at this stage.

"DHBs are required to be given 14 days' notice of strike action. Until these are received we are not able to confirm numbers of staff who will be taking part."

MidCentral would be developing contingency plans to minimise impacts on services, Amoore said.

"DHBs have indicated their willingness to the PSA to attend mediation to progress bargaining."

PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff said health workers were making a stand to say pay was not good enough, and they deserved better.

"The strength of these results, with an average 87.1 per cent in favour of industrial action, shows the seriousness of the funding crisis in the health sector," he said.

"Our members take their duty of care very seriously, it is a huge step for them to even consider taking such strong action."

DHB staff worked hard to keep New Zealanders healthy, but their own wellbeing was put under increasing strain by "insulting offers", Wagstaff said.

"The DHBs have told us that the Government has indicated there will be even less money on the table next year - a continuation of systemic underfunding of the health system.

"Budget documents say DHBs expect a 17 per cent increase in demand over the 10 years to 2021, but they won't get the funding to match and they're planning to squeeze it out of staff."

Wagstaff said the Government had plenty of big talk promising wage rises for New Zealanders, but its own workers were being left behind. "Our members are asking to be fairly recognised for the hard work they put in to keep our health system running - an annual pay rise shouldn't start with a decimal point."

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