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Nurses vote to strike this Wednesday as DHB negotiations fall over

The eight-hour strike by nurses at all public hospitals and DHB facilities will go ahead this week after the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) voted to reject a second offer.

Source: istock.com

NZNO lead advocate David Wait said the second DHB offer did not significantly change and did not address "serious nursing workforce issues" and "pay rates that do not attract people into the profession or retain the people we have".

Nurses around the country will walk off the job in protest from 11am to 7pm on Wednesday. 

It's the second DHB offer that the union has turned down, which Wait said still fails to address the issues raised and wasn't significantly different to the previous offer. 

"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." 

District Health Boards spokesperson Dale Oliff said their main priority now is to ensure patient safety and maintain essential services during the strike. 

"DHBs will try to minimise disruption with some non-acute and elective procedures deferred were necessary to reduce demand on services and reduce patient numbers as much as possible."

Processes are underway to contact patients impacted by the strike, while she said those needing urgent medical attention shouldn’t delay seeking help. 

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The 8-hour strike is going ahead after 30,000 nurses voted against the latest offer, saying it wasn’t significantly different from the first. Source: 1 NEWS

The union’s decision to reject the offer was prompted by the inclusion of a lump sum payment of $4000 which was a part payment on back pay that's owed to members through the pay equity claim that's expected to be settled at the end of the year. 

Wait said members know that these lump sums don't actually lift pay rates or improve the long-term issues that the health system faces and find it unfair that they'd be asked to wait out the pay equity process.  

"It's heartbreaking 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." 

After the strike is over, negotiations will continue between NZNO and the DHBs which are likely to include mediation or facilitation, according to Oliff.  

"We anticipate bargaining will continue to focus on pay, with our commitment to the wellbeing package, protecting the gains from the last negotiations and DHBs assurance to safe staffing." 

Further strike action still hasn't been ruled out by NZNO and its 30,000 members. 

The union is calling for a "profession-enhancing offer" from the DHBs, that "truly recognises the contribution nursing staff make", according to Wait.