Nurses vote to strike over pay

Health workers will go on strike at Nelson and Wairau hospitals in September as part of a national action involving 12,000 workers.

Members of the Public Service Association voted today  in favour of taking industrial action after they were offered a 0.7 per cent pay increase.

The union said the stoppage would be the sector’s biggest industrial action in a decade.

The union encompasses health workers in every district health board, including mental and public health nurses; physiotherapists; anaesthetic technicians; dental therapists, administrative staff and a number of other occupational groups.

PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff said 87.1 per cent of members voted in favour of the action. He said the support showed there was a serious funding crisis in the health sector.

‘‘DHB staff work hard to keep New Zealanders healthy, but their own wellbeing is put under increasing strain by these insulting offers,’’ he 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 there was likely to be a two-hour strike on September 2, and a three-hour one a week later. He said the workers would be ‘‘working to rule’’ or working only as much as their contracts insisted from late August.

The DHBs said they were "disappointed" the PSA had sought a mandate for industrial action.
Graham Dyer, Chief Executive of Hutt and Wairarapa DHBs and chair of a combined DHB employment relations strategy group, said the union was not recognising the tight fiscal environment that DHBs were in.

"This sector has been largely insulated from the impacts of the global financial crisis, and has continued to have growth in both wages and numbers of employees.  Subsequently the expectations should be tempered as the recovery kicks in."

Dyer said: ‘‘There remains severe pressure on the economic delivery of world class health services for all New Zealanders.’’

According to Dyer’s statement, bargaining for six collective agreements had been ongoing for up to 12 months, with groups such as nurses and other staff being offered pay increase settlements which had been accepted by other groups including clinical psychologists.

‘‘The co-ordinated timing of the action is clearly part of some other agenda’’ Dyer said.

The Nelson Mail