Whakarongorau Aotearoa New Zealand Telehealth Services’ employees are literally paying the price for poor management decisions over the past few years, and its NZNO Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) and PSA members have now had enough.
Fed-up members of the two unions, employed at Whakarongorau, will down tools for 24 hours from 3pm on Friday following a breakdown of talks with their employer.
NZNO delegate Bruce Tomlinson said despite paying out millions to each of its shareholders - Pegasus and Procare - in the last financial year, Whakarongorau claims they have no capital to fund a fair wage increase for its employees.
"This is why we are embarking on industrial action. The decision to strike was made because we have reached our wits end."
NZNO and PSA members have been in protracted bargaining with Whakarongorau for months without any inroads.
After more than a year since the previous collective agreement expired, management has offered a paltry 2.5 percent increase for most workers, which falls far below the claim for a cost-of-living increase, Tomlinson said.
"The story is that despite having those big surpluses they cry poverty every year, promising workers a better increase the following year. This year is no different. At what point do they intend to share some of the profits created by the workers with the workers in a fair way?
"Inflation is sitting at 6 percent and they’re offering 2.5 percent, so essentially, they’re asking us again to take another loss in wages."
He said although the numbers going on strike might seem smaller, the impact was much wider as Whakarongorau workers provide immediate support to everyday people all across the country through services like Healthline, 1737 Need to Talk?, Ambulance Secondary Triage, National Poisons Centre, GP After Hours, Earlier Mental Health Response, Shine Domestic Abuse Helpline, Diver Emergency Service Hotline, NZ Defence Force Mental Health Line among many others.
"We are literally the first line in many of the services we provide. We are the voice on the other side of your calls 24 hours a day, and seven days a week."
The rallies take place at near the Whakarongorau offices in Auckland (25 College Hill, Freeman’s Bay), Wellington (36 Customhouse Quay) and Christchurch (395 Madras Street).
"You can share your message of support with #thenurseweneed," he said.
Tomlinson also called on politicians and their parties to have policies this election year to address the nursing crisis and for health to top their list of election priorities.