Nurses on strike until 7am Friday: What you need to know

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) rejected the latest pay offer from their DHB employers and are strike for 24 hours. Here is everything you need to know:

Who's on strike?

Capital Coast District Health Board Chief Medical Officer Dr John Tait says DHBs have planned for the strike for months. Source: Breakfast

Up to 29,500 nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants working for district health boards.

The Nurses’ union says offers from the Government are not acceptable. Source: Breakfast

These people are estimated to comprise 60 to 70 percent of the DHBs' hospital workforce. Canterbury DHB estimates around 90 percent of its nursing workforce is eligible to strike.

In total, the nurses' union (NZNO) has 50,00 members, 29,500 of whom are covered by the multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) governing DHB-employed hospital nurses and midwives.

When is it on?

From 7am this morning until 7am tomorrow morning.

Why are they striking?

Nurses have rejected four pay offers from DHBs in just over a year.

The latest offer boosted the minimum pay increase nurses would receive from 9 percent to 12.5 percent, but delays the time taken for the pay rises to take effect.

DHBs and the government have maintained there was no more money available for nurses' pay negotiations.

The Nurses Organisation is recommending the improved offer which includes pay increases of 12.5 to 15.9 percent, to be rolled out over 25 months.

Strike action was also scheduled for early July but was called off because the DHB offer was improved and NZNO recommended their members accept it.

Nurses will turn out in numbers to picket hospitals across the country, but they've also vowed not to let the strike endanger lives. Source: 1 NEWS

"Issues faced and reported by our members have arisen from a decade of severe underfunding of our public hospitals which have failed to keep pace with growing community need, the ageing population and workforce, and increased costs," said NZNO Industrial Services Manager Cee Payne.

Lack of trust in DHBs is a big issue for nurses.

The NZNO needed a simple majority to reject the latest pay offer to proceed with the strike.

While the organisation never release voting statistics, it says this week's vote was closer than last time.

Nurses have not gone on strike for 30 years.

What was the offer the nurses rejected?

Members of the Nurses Organisation rejected the fourth offer by DHBs on Monday.

The offer redistributed available funding, lifting the minimum increase from 9 per cent to 12.5 per cent but over a longer period, over 25 months, or until August 2020.

DHBs also said they would begin recruiting immediately an extra 500 or so full-time staff.

The offer also provided a date - 31 December 2019 - for the implementation of pay equity, in a package estimated to be worth $520 million.

Are all nurses happy with the decision to strike?

The union has come under fire on social media with intense debate and criticism of it by some nurses for failing, in their view, to advocate strongly enough for nurses against their employers over years.

Who will provide cover?

Nurses who are union members and others are "Nurse Responders" who have agreed to provide vital life preserving services for the strike. This is a legal requirement during a strike.

Cover for any nurses who are providing life preserving services but become sick and can't work during the strike will be provided under separate emergency procedures.

The NZNO wants to assure the public that patient and public safety is paramount at all times.

How many operations have been deferred?

To reduce demand within public hospitals DHBs have beem deferring elective, or non-urgent surgical procedures. All outpatient appointments - hundreds for every hospital - have also been cancelled for Thursday, to free up staff for other things on the day of the strike.

The DHBs' lead contingency planner Anne Aitcheson said Wednesday between 3500 and 3700 elective procedures nationwide will probably be deferred, to be rescheduled later. The chief medical officer at Capital and Coast DHB, John Tait, said on Tuesay 6000 to 8000 elective appointments nationwide will need to be deferred on Thursday.

What happens in a major emergency like an earthquake?

Emergency plans agreed by the nurses' union and DHB contingency planners would cover this possibility.

Advice for anyone needing care:

People who had an outpatient appointment for today should have been contacted by now. Phone your general practice team/family doctor for advice if needed, or if it's an emergency dial 111.

DHBs have also told the public to access emergency and urgent care as normal - going straight to the hospital emergency department if required. And they've urged those in need of such help not to stay away from hospital at the expense of their health.

Where to from here?

At this stage there are no further strikes notified and no more talks planned between the parties. During a strike longer-term considerations take a backseat to managing hospitals during the strike

Nurses have said they remain available.

The 24 hour strike over pay and work conditions began at 7am today. Source: 1 NEWS



Police investigating after needles found in strawberries at Auckland Countdown

Police say they have started an investigation with the Ministry for Primary Industries after needles were found in strawberries at an Auckland Countdown.

A police spokesperson told 1 NEWS that police are taking the report seriously and are investigating together with MPI.

They also stated that the person who reported the incident was not harmed as the needles were found before anyone had eaten them.

The investigation comes after needles were found in a punnet of strawberries sourced from Western Australia, which was bought in a Countdown supermarket in St Lukes, Auckland according to MPI.

Countdown has withdrawn a brand of Australian strawberries from sale as a precautionary measure, and is advising customers to cut up strawberries before consuming them.

The Choice brand of strawberries was sold nationwide last week.

MPI says this brand has not been implicated in the Australian contamination incident and associated recalls.  

In a press release today Countdown says "we take food safety very seriously and we have withdrawn any remaining Choice strawberries from sale from Countdown, SuperValue and FreshChoice supermarkets while we investigate this with our suppliers.

"Customers can return any Choice brand of strawberries they may have at home to Countdown for peace of mind and a full refund.

"As an extra precaution and following similar advice from public health authorities in Australia, customers should cut up any Australian strawberries before eating them.

"There have been no reports of any illness or injury in New Zealand. The strawberries affected by this withdrawal have not previously had any issues of this nature reported and had not been withdrawn from sale in Australia."

NSW authorities are investigating more than 20 incidents of needles found in strawberries. Source: Breakfast

Countdown is in contact with both New Zealand and Australian authorities as they investigate this matter.

A spokesperson from Foodstuffs NZ told 1 NEWS that Pak'nSave and New World do not stock the brand of strawberries in question.

Foodstuffs NZ say they have already pulled all Australian-sourced strawberries from their shelves.

The halt comes after needles were found in different brands in Australia. Source: 1 NEWS

Anyone who finds anything suspicious in their food is asked to contact police immediately.

Countdown says the strawberries came from Western Australia. Source: 1 NEWS

TODAY'S
TOP STORIES

Proposed law would give police power to spot fine shoplifters

A New Zealand First MP has submitted a bill to Parliament, which would give police the power to hit shoplifters with an immediate fine.

If pulled from the member's bill ballot and passed, Darroch Ball's bill would give police the power to fine shoplifters up to one-and-a-half times the price of the item.

"What the bill does is introduce a new offence, which would be shoplifting, which is defined as the petty theft of anything under $1000," Mr Ball said.

"It gives police the option to use their discretion on whether to give an instant fine ... for those petty thefts and those shoplifters."

He said that would free up police and court time, while giving retailers a greater ability to have thieves dealt with.

Sixty-eight percent of shoplifting incidents currently go un-reported because retailers don't believe those responsible will ever face prosecution, Mr Ball said.

"For the most part [shoplifters] don't get prosecuted or the punishments against, or any action against those offenders is quite minimal, if they have any at all," he said.

"So what this will do is it will give the retailers the confidence that when they do call police, and they do have that evidence, there that something can be done immediately."

And the bill's got the seal of approval from Retail New Zealand.

Its spokesperson Greg Harford said petty theft was a problem right across the sector, and this bill would go a long way to remedying it.

He said New Zealand loses around $1 billion a year because of shoplifting.

"We think this bill will absolutely act as a deterrent against shoplifting. One of the reasons that people actually shoplift now is that they think there are no consequences for the activity," he said.

"This will mean that there are consequences, those consequences will be proportionate for the offence and it will be a really good way of discouraging people from beginning a life of crime through shoplifting."

rnz.co.nz

Midsection of man hiding jeans in jacket at store
Midsection of man hiding jeans in jacket at store. Source: istock.com

TODAY'S
FEATURED STORIES

Sunday Feature: What is the future for whitebait?

Saturday morning at the market. I bite the bullet, line up and buy one. It's a delicious, piping-hot, wee taste of home, but boy do I feel guilty. Not guilty enough to stop at one, though. I go back for a second. Then a third.

I've read the headlines. Read the entire stories. Whitebait are being wiped out because of people like me. They could soon be gone forever - and it's my fault. Or is it?

According to a Department of Conservation report released last year, three of the five whitebait species are "at risk/declining" and one species is "threatened".

Everyone agrees humans are having a huge impact on whitebait habitat, but people don't agree on how much of an impact fishing has on these species.

To help protect these native fish Forest and Bird are calling for recreational catch limits and a complete commercial ban on whitebaiting.

"Here is a species that are in trouble and there's no limit at all to the amount that you can catch" says Forest and Bird's Kevin Hague.

But Dr Mike Hickford, a marine ecologist at the University of Canterbury says fears of wiping out whitebait are grossly overblown. "I don't think we will ever wipe out whitebait" he says.

Hickford says a distinction needs to be made between adult and the post-larvae fish. "There's no doubt that the adult stage of these fish are in trouble, but it doesn't translate to the whitebait".

Hickford says there's no evidence to suggest at this stage that whitebaiting affects the threatened adult population, which spawn in such huge numbers.

"The majority of those whitebaits that are coming back in to the river, they're going to die anyway, they always have died and they still will die in the future no matter what we do".

Despite a lack of clear evidence, Kevin Hague says restrictions on how we catch whitebait, how much we can catch and the sale of whitebait should be introduced before the start of next 3-month long season (Sept-Nov).

"We don't want to interfere with someone's ability to go and get a feed for their family, but we just think there should be some tools that we use to actually reduce the pressure on these species".

Cascade Whitebait, one of New Zealand's biggest commercial whitebaiters, fish each season on the isolated Cascade river, just south of Haast.

Nan Brown, whose parents helped set up the operation 70 years ago, says their records don't show any decline in whitebait catch.

She wants to hold on to their fishery and says, "It would be unfair to let the guillotine drop on something you don't know enough about."

By Matt Chisholm

Whitebait are being wiped out and it's the fault of people like me, or is it? Sunday's Matt Chisholm finds out. Source: Sunday


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Good Sorts: Meet the 12-year-old who is obsessed with helping hard up chickens

Daniel Parsons has saved so many of his feathered friends his home can get rather crowded.

This week Good Sorts met the Bay of Plenty 12-year-old who is obsessed with helping hard up chickens.

Watch the video above to see what makes Daniel such a good sort.

Daniel Parsons has saved so many of his feathered friends his home can get rather crowded. Source: 1 NEWS