Nurses' strike ballot known today

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 09:00 04/08/2014

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A ballot of health workers at Nelson Marlborough District Health Board will reveal today if they will take strike action.

Public Services Association members voted in a secret ballot last week if they wanted to strike after a 0.7 per cent pay increase offer by the Government was branded insulting.

The board's 529 union members, including nursing staff and public health nurses, allied health and public health professionals and clerical staff, have voted.

Options were work to rule or strike action that was two hours, three hours or a week long.

PSA organiser Mike Cunliffe said the 0.7 per cent rise proposal from the Government was half the rate of inflation at 1.6 per cent and amounted to a pay cut. The association wants a 2 per cent pay rise for all nursing, public health, allied health and clerical staff.

Negotiations had been carried out with DHB Shared Services, which is acting on the directions of the Government, but failed to reach a resolution.

"Strike action is not something that we take lightly," Cunliffe said. "These staff are at the end of their tether. In effect it is a cut in the value of wages compared to the cost of living. We're supposed to be in a rock star economy yet the Government sees fit to implement a 0.7 per cent rise.

"There are feelings of anger and disgust. There is a sense of insult that we feel undervalued.

"The last pay rise in nursing was 2.5 per cent in May 2013. It is getting worse rather than better."

Wairau Hospital mental health nurse Greg Davies said there was a strong risk of industrial action.

"Staff feel undervalued and a lack of respect towards the workforce. We undersettled on previous contracts and we are rewarded with our efforts with this."

Davies said it was frustrating negotiating with health officials who were not decision makers on pay. "In this election year we want the Government to sit up and listen. I have colleagues I have been working with since 2008 and they are still paying off their student loans. This pay offer is a step backwards."

PSA members have sent a letter to board chief executive Chris Fleming, urging him to lobby the Government for further funding.

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- The Marlborough Express

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