Nursing reports

NZNO issues next strike notice

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 2 August 2021

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) has today issued strike notices to the country’s district health boards (DHBs) after its 30,000 members who work in DHBs voted in favour of an eight-hour nationwide strike on 19 August.

The notice is for the second of three planned strikes and comes after members voted by clear majority to reject the latest DHB offer on the grounds that if fails to set out clearly how safe staffing will be addressed and how the DHBs will be held accountable for it.

Lead Advocate and NZNO Industrial Advisor David Wait said members are taking a stand for the future of the nursing profession which is in a state of chronic crisis because nurses work in unsafe environments every day and cannot adequately care for their patients.

“Let’s be really clear. This is about the standard of care you and I receive when we go to hospital, and it is about making sure nursing is a job people want to do. We need to be sure nurses will be there when we need them in the future – and we will need them!

“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 RSV, and they are genuinely worried about the future of nursing in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“Nurses are leaving the profession or are moving overseas where wages and conditions are often so much better and we must achieve better and safer working conditions to help prevent that.”

He said the latest offer is completely unclear about how the DHBs will be held accountable if they do not provide safe staffing and just repeats the same old vague promises that the problem will be fixed at some point in the future.

“Nurses are fed up after years of such promises and have no trust or confidence that the situation will improve on the basis of what has been offered around safe staffing guarantees.

“It’s just not good enough, and the stakes are too high not to take such a stand.”

However, he said NZNO was eager to get back into talks so strike action could be avoided.

“We invited the DHBs to continue urgently with the negotiation/mediation process through this weekend past. But were advised they are not available to meet until this coming Thursday (5 August).

“This delay on the part of the DHBs is regrettable, especially with impending strike action.”

He said the DHBs and Government need to come up with an offer that doesn’t just recognise the contribution of nurses through pay, but one that also assures them the future of nursing is secure.

The nationwide strike will take place on 19 August from 11am-7pm. MIQ and border workers will be exempt and life preserving services will be provided in negotiation with the DHBs.


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

Nurses reject latest DHB offer for failing to address safe staffing

New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) media release, 29 July 2021

NZNO members who work in district health boards (DHBs) have voted by clear majority to reject the latest offer in their negotiations with the DHBs, saying it fails to address the chronic and systemic safe staffing issues in a way that would ensure and protect the future of the health system.

The ballot closed at 5pm this afternoon.

Lead Advocate David Wait said that, while the DHBs had made promising moves on pay, the offer contained too many ambiguities.

“Members have been clear from the beginning that their safety at work and the safety of their patients is a priority, and that is where they most deserve certainty.

“Better pay will make nursing more attractive, but it is not clear how the DHBs will be held accountable if they do not provide safe staffing. Nurses don’t want more vague promises that the problem will be fixed in the future – which is what we have received once again.

“For decades nurses, health care assistants, midwives and kaimahi hauora have been given these promises and things are now worse than ever, everywhere.”

He said nurses were making a stand for the long-term future of their profession and the wellbeing of people living in Aotearoa New Zealand.

“This won’t happen until the DHBs put accountability systems in place so nurses know things really will change and that their employers will listen when they feel unsafe at work.”

Wait said that, while a commitment to finalising Pay Equity by 30 November was appreciated, members are being asked again to trust in an outcome that remains uncertain at this point.

“This is just one more uncertainty an area where commitments to have the matter ‘sorted by a certain date’ have consistently not been met. The effective pay equity end date remains 31 December 2019, but the process has taken much longer, so it’s not surprising members’ trust has been worn thin.”

He also said NZNO was committed to carrying on with bargaining and continuing with negotiation and mediation. He said he expected the DHBs to do the same.

“We want the DHBs to come back with an offer that provides certainty over how safe staffing will be addressed. Members are tired of ambiguity.”

NZNO lifted a notice for a 24-hour strike on 29-30 July so members could consider and vote on an amended offer. However, given the outcome of the ratification ballot, he said strikes planned for 19 August (8 hours) and 9-10 September (24 hours) will go ahead unless an acceptable offer is made.

“Whether or not they happen will depend on our continued negotiations, which NZNO remains committed to.”

NZNO has more than 52,000 members; around 32,000 work for DHBs.


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

NZNO to present DHB MECA offer; withdraws strike notice

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 16 July 2021

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says significant progress has been made in negotiations with the district health boards (DHBs) over the latest multi-employer collective agreement (MECA), and it will be presenting an offer to its members next week.

Lead Advocate David Wait said he was glad negotiations had reached this point after talks broke down earlier in the week.

“The DHBs had shown a willingness to move on a number of issues important to our members, but did not have an offer ready by close of business on Wednesday, which was the two-week deadline for issuing the strike notice.

NZNO will be withdrawing the strike notice for 29 July, providing members with the space and opportunity to consider this important information, while not having to prepare for significant industrial action.

Timings for the ratification vote will also be announced to members next week.

NZNO’s 30,000 members who work in DHBs voted in favour of three strikes: 29/30 July (24 hours), 19 August (8 hours), 9/10 September (24 hours) in a ballot that closed on 6 July.

If the offer is not accepted by members the strikes planned for 19 August and 9 September could still go ahead.


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

NZNO members approve three more strikes

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 6 July 2021

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says its 30,000 members working in DHBs have voted in favour of three more strikes: July 29/30 (24 hours), August 19 (8 hours), September 9/10 (24 hours). The strike ballot closed at 12 Noon today.

NZNO lead advocate David Wait said the vote was very high and members clearly remain resolute about ongoing strike action to achieve the recognition and working conditions that will ensure nursing remains a viable profession.

“This is a history-making set of actions that could take place over the next few months, but we will be continuing discussions with the DHBs this week and we remain committed to securing a deal that is acceptable to our members.”

However, he said the DHBs also seem willing to actively seek a solution.

“Progress has been made in our discussions and that has given us some hope a resolution can be found around pay and safe staffing.”

Further discussions with the DHBs are set for later this week, and mediation is scheduled for next week on 14-15 July.

While he had some optimism about the progress made, David Wait said the issues facing nursing staff remain very real.

“We are facing a national health crisis in terms of safe staffing, recruitment and retention; and the working conditions our members face can no longer be endured and that’s why our issues matter.

David Wait said he had not seen this level of member determination before, and that if agreement is not reached, more nurses, midwives, health care assistants and kaimahi hauora will simply leave the profession.

“Nursing is a caring profession and it’s heart-breaking nurses feel so undervalued that they would choose ongoing strike action. To avoid this, we need the Government and the DHBs to come up with an offer right now that truly recognises the contribution nurses make and that ensures the future of nursing. This is about the wellbeing and safety of everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand.”


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

Nurses reject DHB offer and confirm strike action

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 7 June 2021

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation says its 30,000 members who work in DHBs have voted overwhelmingly to reject a second offer in their current round of multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) negotiations. This means the eight-hour strike planned for Wednesday 9 June will go ahead affecting all public hospitals and DHB facilities.

The ballot closed today at Noon and NZNO Lead Advocate David Wait said he was pleased at the exceptionally high voter turnout and at the member unity the result reveals.

“Members are facing serious nursing workforce issues, with pay rates that do not attract people into the profession or retain the people we have, and staffing levels which stretch them to breaking point, putting them and their patients at risk.

“This second DHB offer has not significantly changed and does not address these issues. Our members are genuinely concerned that nursing shortages would increase if it was accepted, and that standards of care for all in Aotearoa New Zealand would suffer as a result.

“Ironically some DHBs have requested to have more staff on strike day to provide life preserving services than they would ordinarily have in their wards on a non-strike day. That staff levels are regularly below life preserving services levels should concern everyone.

“We want the DHBs to be transparent about this being a large-scale problem where staff and patients are regularly put at risk. The DHBs have attempted to respond to this claim, but after years of delays and failed promises, members want to see some accountability on their part.”

David Wait said the thing that made the rejected offer different was the inclusion of a lump sum payment of $4,000 (gross and pro rata) which was a part payment on back pay that would be owed to members through the pay equity claim, which should be settled by the end of the year.

“Members know that lump sum payments do not lift actual rates of pay, which impacts on the long-term issues of a health system that values nurses and their work, attracts new people into the profession and encourages others back from overseas.

“They also find it unfair that they are being asked to wait for the pay equity process, when there is uncertainty about when this will happen or what the results will be.”

He said NZNO members were resolute and that further strike action could not be ruled out.

“It’s heart-breaking that nurses and other health workers feel so undervalued that they would choose industrial action. Nobody wants this and the best way for future strikes to be avoided would be through a fair and decent offer.

“We need the Government and the DHBs to come up with a profession-enhancing offer right now that truly recognises the contribution nursing staff make and that ensures the future of nursing for the wellbeing and safety of us all.”


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

NZNO insists on good faith bargaining in light of pay restraint

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 12 May 2021

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says it’s ironic that, on the eve of the International Day of the Nurse, it had to attend a meeting with Government to defend its members’ right to be treated in good faith while negotiating their multi-employer collective agreement with the district health boards.

NZNO Industrial Services Manager Glenda Alexander said this flies in the face of the massive contribution nurses, midwives, health care assistants and kaimahi hauora in Aotearoa New Zealand and around the world have made during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We applaud each and every one of these workers who has helped keep the country and our people safe,” she said.

Yesterday, alongside the NZ Council of Trade Unions and other public service unions, NZNO met with Public Service Minister Hon Chris Hipkins to discuss the recent Public Service Pay Guidance that appeared to signal three years without a pay increase for most NZNO members.

Ms Alexander said members could not believe the Government would take this approach particularly after the sacrifices they have made and that many say they now plan to leave the profession or the country that values them so poorly.

“This is particularly galling given we are part way through pay negotiations that have been underway for a year and a pay equity claim that was agreed to be in place by the end of 2019. We are frustrated and angry that we honour the agreements reached in good faith but that this good faith is not reciprocated.”

She said NZNO was very frank about its concerns at the meeting and that the Government did listen. It acknowledged that bargaining must be conducted in good faith and that the priority is to lift the wages of the lowest paid.

“We agreed the latter could be achieved by speeding up settlement of the equal pay claims. This  needs to happen now and the settlements achieved must be maintained so similar male occupations in the private sector, who are not subject to pay restraint, don’t leave us behind and widen the gender pay gap again.”

She said NZNO has gone into negotiations before where attempts have been made to set the bargaining parameters from ‘outside the room’.

“We have always put forward our own expectations about what is fair and reasonable and have been prepared to fight for that in the past. We believe these circumstances are no different.

“Members care deeply about wellbeing, workload and equity issues. These were discussed and we expect that these issues will be addressed by the Government and that there should be no predetermined outcomes in bargaining so the parties can find agreeable solutions, working in good faith.”


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

Nurses find first DHB collective agreement offer completely unacceptable

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 12 April 2021

The nearly 30,000 district health board (DHB) members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) have received the first DHB offer in their multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) negotiations, which began in June last year. In a survey of the affected membership the overwhelming feedback was that this offer would be rejected out of hand.

These nurses, midwives, health care assistants (HCAs) and kaimahi hauora say the offer fails to recognise the tremendous workload and highly pressurised working conditions they endure and will do nothing to address the DHB staffing crisis that puts themselves and patients in peril.

Lead Advocate and NZNO Industrial Advisor David Wait says members had until Sunday 11 April to provide their feedback on the package that offered little more than an annualised increase of just 1.38 percent for most.

“Because the clear majority of respondents said the offer was completely unacceptable, we will proceed straight to mediation with the DHBs while we meet with members to decide on our next steps.”

Wait said nurses have been historically undervalued because they work in a female-dominated profession, but that this was about much more than just money.

“So much is asked of our members who step up and give their all to the point of exhaustion over and over. Meanwhile, their employers persistently fail to provide promised safe staffing levels.

“There is a DHB staffing crisis that has created unsafe working conditions for nursing staff that compromises patient safety. This offer completely fails to acknowledge that fact and will do nothing to attract new people to the profession. Nurses can clearly see this, and it hurts.”

Auckland registered nurse Neil Warrington said nurses are feeling flat, demoralised and let down.

“This will not enhance the profession in any way. I can’t think of anyone who would look at this offer and say yes, nursing is the job for me.

“A lot of nurses are looking at moving overseas to work, especially now that the borders with Australia are open again. They believe they will be much better off over there.”

David Wait said members put forward 63 claims to the DHBs with the core issues being around pay, better sick leave and accountability over safe staffing, but that much of what was asked for has been ignored.

“That is not really negotiation. It’s just the same short-sighted thinking that relies on the good will and compassion of nurses who deserve good will and compassion themselves. For all our sakes, let’s hope funding can be found for a much more worthy offer.”


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

Unsafe MIQ staffing and conditions putting us all at risk

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 4 November 2020

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says two health workers infected with COVID-19 in Christchurch are a symptom of systemic, structural problems with the way managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) facilities are being managed in New Zealand that threaten the wellbeing of nurses and other health workers – and indeed the whole country.

NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said NZNO is also aware of significant problems in Auckland facilities managed by Counties Manukau DHB, where nurses and health workers are under-staffed, have insufficient access to PPE and do not have the support in place to enable them to care for the large influx of quarantined people – whose needs are also being neglected.

“Our members are telling us they are anxious and fearful. The woeful working conditions at these facilities are leading to unsafe practices which put their health at risk. This puts those they care for at risk and poses a threat to the border and therefore to the welfare of the public.

“This is important because it is our border control that sets us apart from other countries and keeps us all safe.”

Ms Nuku said this is not an isolated problem, and nor is it one that will go away without concerted action.

“If these systemic issues are not identified and remedied, this will be an ongoing problem. The health and spiritual and cultural needs of the overseas people in MIQ have been radically underestimated and there just aren’t the staff or resources available to meet those needs.”

Ms Nuku repeated NZNO’s call for a review of how MIQ facilities are run to identify systemic failures, and said she feared more health workers would become infected if this was not done urgently.

“We need assurances across the board that our members will be cared for and safe, because at the moment they are telling us they are not.”

NZNO Industrial Adviser DHB David Wait said the conditions for workers in these facilities had been exacerbated by problems with rostering and inadequate pay for nurses and other health staff working in MIQ facilities, and that NZNO organisers had been working tirelessly with members to identify and address these issues.

“Counties Manukau DHB has taken steps to fix its payroll issues and has provided assurances to NZNO members about their hours of work.

“They are also engaging with us to address concerns over unsafe staffing and we believe they are taking these concerns seriously. However, we need urgent action over promises. Until these issues are resolved finding sufficient staff will be especially challenging and the threat to New Zealanders will remain very real.”  

NZNO is working closely with other CTU affiliated unions and MBIE to develop a Work Participation Agreement (WPA). This WPA will be applicable to all workers across all MIQ facilities in New Zealand. The WPA will be a mechanism to ensure worker engagement participation and representation for all workers in these facilities around all health and safety matters.


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

De-valuing of nursing deeply worrying

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 27 August 2020

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation’s (NZNO’s) College of Emergency Nurses (CENNZ) says the de-valuing of the nursing role evident in recent moves by the Canterbury DHB (CDHB) are deeply worrying, and that all New Zealanders should be concerned.

College Chair Dr Sandy Richardson says the loss of key personnel from the DHB such as Director of Nursing Mary Gordon, and the DHB Board’s decision to prioritise deficit management will have significant health effects.

“We’re looking at an anticipated $13 million cut in nursing staff costs. The willingness to target nursing whenever money needs saving is long-standing and shows a lack of awareness that patient safety is reduced when the number of nurses and skill mix is lower than required to meet patient need.

“It’s a failure to comprehend what nurses actually do and how vital their role is.”  

Dr Richardson said CDHB is unique in that Canterbury, the West Coast, Kaikoura and Marlborough have experienced ongoing and cumulative crises and disasters over the past decades, which have had a significant impact on the health system, the health workforce and community. 

“The ongoing effects of these remain in terms of physical, emotional and psychological reminders for people in these areas, and the health system has suffered financial, structural and institutional wounds – and now we have COVID-19. 

“Throughout this, nurses have continued to work effectively and efficiently, and to maximise savings.  There is no fat left to cut.  A nursing shortage already looms due to its ageing workforce, but the Board plans to reduce the number of new graduates being employed.”

Dr Richardson said the loss of important clinical voices and institutional knowledge resulting from the mass resignations is reminiscent of the 1998 Stent report which made 112 recommendations related to Canterbury Health. The investigation came after multiple warnings from clinical staff and professional organisations.

“Then Health and Disability Commissioner Robyn Stent recognised the damage done by cost cutting and loss of clinical expertise. Her report validated the warning letter sent by concerned staff ‘Patients are dying’. 

“This was centred on Christchurch Hospital and should be a reminder of the worst that can occur; but this seems to have slipped from the Board’s collective memory.”


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

Primary health care nurses and staff to stop work

New Zealand Nurses Organisation media release, 6 July 2020

More than 3400 primary health care nurses and medical receptionists/administrators across more than 500 practices and accident and medical centres will stop work for two hours nationwide on Thursday 23 July after mediation to settle their multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) negotiations failed.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) Industrial Advisor Chris Wilson says this has not happened before in these primary health care workplaces and is a clear indication of the frustration workers feel after eight months of fruitless negotiations.

“It’s not surprising employers have not increased their offer to one that our members could accept because their funding from Government is completely inadequate. Employers have been very clear that they also want pay parity with DHBs so they can keep their staff and continue delivery of a quality primary health care service.”

Ms Wilson said an experienced nurse covered by the Primary Health Care MECA is currently paid 10.6 percent less than their DHB colleague with the same qualifications, skills and experience.

"This is completely unjust and undervalues the amazing work these nurses do in providing expert care in the community – demonstrated so clearly in the COVID-19 response."

She said this was not your usual union versus employer dispute.

“Owners, doctors and managers are also disappointed that Government funding for pay parity has not been forthcoming. This is despite approaches to ex-Health Minister David Clark, the Ministry of Health and DHB officials by both NZNO and employer advocates the NZ Medical Association and Green Cross Health.”

Ms Wilson said the recently released Health and Disability System Review Report was clear that primary health care nurses should expect pay parity, and that ex-Health Minister David Clark acknowledged there was a disparity as recently as a month ago.

“Resolving this really comes down to political will, and our members’ patience has just about run out. Budget 2020 put an extra $3.92 billion into DHBs over the next four years, whereas pay parity for PHC nurses would cost a mere $15 million.

“Last week $15 million was promised to assist completing the Christchurch Coastal Pathway. Our members are wondering what has to happen for Government to appropriately value them and the Primary Health sector as the frontline of our health service.

“Without additional funding, recruitment and retention issues will only be solved by passing additional costs on to the consumers. This is not a responsible solution and clearly not in the interests of communities."

Ms Wilson said NZNO will be contacting the Chief Nursing Officer, Director General of Health, relevant Ministers and the Prime Minister this week to make the case again for improved Government funding.


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