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Primary health care nurses reject pay offer

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 21 May 2020

After prolonged negotiations primary health care nurses have voted down a final offer from employers of 2.5 and 2 percent pay increases over two years.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) has been negotiating the Primary Health Care Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (PHC MECA) since November last year. The MECA covers more than 3400 nurses, receptionists and administrators across more than 500 practices and accident or medical centres.

Despite approaches to the Health Minister, the Ministry of Health and DHB officials by NZNO and organisations such as the New Zealand Medical Association, Green Cross Limited and General Practice NZ, the additional funding needed to achieve pay parity with DHB nurses has not been forthcoming.

NZNO Industrial Adviser Chris Wilson says that in March this year employers gave their final offer based on what they say they can currently afford, but it was clearly insufficient.

“We have advocated strongly for an offer that would put primary health care nurses on a salary par with their DHB counterparts, but this offer falls woefully short and accordingly our members have voted it down.

“An experienced nurse covered by the PHC MECA is currently paid 10.6 percent less than their DHB colleague with the same qualifications and experience. This disparity can and must be fixed, and it really comes down to funding and political will.”

Ms Wilson says that despite NZNO’s advocacy, and widespread recognition of their valuable work – especially on the frontline against COVID-19 – the Government continues to undervalue the work of PHC nurses and the sector by not funding the gap that will secure pay parity. She says it’s time this recognition and praise were matched by pay.

“There was a post-Budget pledge of more funding to early childhood centres in recognition that they were undervalued and of their importance in the recovery from COVID-19. That’s a great outcome for them and it shows the Government is capable of addressing pay inequities. There are clear parallels here to primary health care and we would like to see a similar solution found.

Earlier this year NZNO surveyed its members covered by the PHC MECA and 70 percent of respondents said they were considering leaving the sector because of higher pay elsewhere. Many nurse leaders said in the survey that they are struggling to recruit new nurses or keep the ones they already have.

“These nurses provide expert care and advice which often reduces hospital admissions. Fewer nurses will mean these services become less available and more expensive,” Ms Wilson says.

“Not only is the pay inequality an injustice, it ultimately costs the system more in the long-term. We cannot let this go on.”

NZNO will resume negotiations as soon as possible in an endeavour to reach a proposed collective agreement that values primary health care workers’ contribution to delivering a quality service at the frontline of health.


Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.

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