Winston Peters has this morning expressed his "sympathy" for nurses in their ongoing pay dispute with DHBs, but stressed the Government can't be expected to "fix everything up after six months".
The Deputy Prime Minister was asked on TVNZ Breakfast about to what extent the Government can intervene in the pay dispute, after the nurses union yesterday rejected a $500 million pay package that would raise nurses salaries by 9 per cent over the next 15 months.
"This is not a debate or an argument. The reality is we would like to facilitate the DHBs to be more generous but we can't fix everything up as a new Government after six months, all in the space of one budget,' Mr Peters said.
"We're not taking sides here, we understand the circumstance and this Government is being as self-less as it possibly can, but we've got huge infrastructural neglect all over the country, we've got more police we need, we've got so much in education we need.
"Everywhere we look there's a vacuum of concern in the past to facilitate and fund the requirements of this country and the nurses are no different in that context."
The latest DHB pay-offer rejected by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) was a 9 per cent pay rise over the next 15 months.
The offer includes a one-off payment of $2000, a two per cent increase in staffing, as well as two new steps on the pay scale.
The new steps would mean registered nurses with more than five years of experience could have their base salaries boosted from $66,755 to $77,386 by December next year.
Union members had voted overwhelming in favour of strike action, planned for July 5 and 13, if yesterday's offerer was rejected, which it was.
In light of this rejection, and the threat of strikes, Mr Peters asked for patience from the NZNO.
"Maybe in 2019, and 2020, and 2021, we can look forward to being able to handle to problem, but we can't do it all right now," he said.
"Personally my colleagues understand why this difficulty has arisen. But they were taking a pittance from the National Party for the last nine years. And maybe they've got expectations beyond what we can service."
Overall though, Mr Peters said he had sympathy for the nurses' plight.
"If you look at the big picture, you do have to say, you do sympathise with the nurses, and others," Mr Peters said.
"We all know, there are just some professions in this country that have just not been getting a fair deal."