New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 14 May 2021
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) will be issuing strike notices to the country’s district health boards (DHBs) after its 30,000 members who work in DHBs voted overwhelmingly in favour of an eight-hour strike on 9 June.
Lead Advocate and NZNO Industrial Advisor David Wait said voter turnout was very high and that he was extremely pleased by the unity shown by members participating in the ballot which closed yesterday at Noon.
“Members are angry and frustrated at the first DHB offer received last month. That would have given most members little more than 1.38 percent, just under the rate of inflation. This is despite the incredible sacrifices they made in 2020 to keep the country safe from COVID-19.”
However, he said members were absolutely furious at the Government’s 5 May wage restraint announcement that would effectively freeze their wages for three years as most have already progressed to the last step of their pay scale.
“That anger has been clearly expressed in the strike ballot result, but this is about much more than just money.
“Nurses, midwives, health care assistants and kaimahi hauora have been working under horrific and unsafe staffing conditions for a long time, made much worse by the pandemic, and they are genuinely worried about the future of the nursing profession.
“They do not strike on a whim and care deeply for their patients, but the time has come for a clear statement to be made. If nurses are not valued and appreciated, they will leave nursing or move overseas, and few young people will be joining the profession to replace them.
“This will turn what is already a serious staffing crisis into a disaster for the health system and the levels of care available for ourselves and our loved ones.”
Mr Wait said members working in Managed Isolation and Quarantine will not participate in the strike. Those working as part of the vaccination rollout will strike, but the DHBs have been given ample notice to make alternative arrangements for the eight-hour period. NZNO will also respond in good faith to DHB requests for members to assist by providing life preserving services in the interests of patient safety.
“Striking is always a last resort and we do have mediation with the DHBs scheduled for 18-19 May during which we will actively search for solutions that could avert strike action.”
But he said the best alternative would be for the DHBs and Government to be realistic and come up with an acceptable offer that would enhance the profession and recognise the contribution nurses have made before and since the pandemic.
The nationwide strike will take place on 9 June from 11am-7pm but Mr Wait said member determination should not be underestimated and that further strike action was possible.
Media inquiries: Rob Zorn, NZNO Media and Communications Advisor: 027 431 2617.