DHB nurses gain big wage boost but others miss out

By Jessica Tyson

While nurses have accepted their employer district health boards' latest offer, for an immediate $5,800 pay rise, to their base salaries, nurses in other organisations will miss out.

The decision has come after 15 months of negotiations, including strike action earlier this year, and in the wake of an Employment Relations Authority hearing, in August.

The New Zealand Nurses’ Organisation (NZNO) kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku says while this offer has more benefits than previous negotiations, nurses in any other sector will still miss out.

“When anybody acknowledges the hurt and pain and the fact that there’s been understaffing, that’s fantastic. The issue is we’re only talking about a sector here, the DHB nurses. We’ve got nurses who are feeling undervalued, underpaid and unrecognised across the primary health sector, aged-care sector, Māori and iwi providers," Nuku says.

“So when we start talking about nurses as a whole workforce, then I think nurses will feel that there is a genuine government listening to the genuine concerns across the whole sector.”

NZNO said in a statement that 83 per cent of its 53,000 members, 32,000 of whom are employed by district health boards (DHBs), voted on Friday in favour of the proposed collective agreement. The pay rise would be backdated to September 6 and cost DHBs $400 million.

Nuku says the difference between this negotiation and previous negotiations is “It’s about DHB obligations.”

“There are more contractual obligations to do what the DHB says they’re going to do. What we’ve seen is in previous negotiations is there’s been great talk and expectations but, when it comes to enforceability in implementation, DHBs have sadly lagged behind do this strengthens up the issues behind DHBs obligations to safe staffing.”

'DHBs have talked a great talk'

Nuku says the delay in getting this negotiation across the line was because of nurses' reluctance.

“Because DHBs have talked a great talk and there’s been little action that has followed, so building trust and confidence has required us to toughen up the legislation to make sure that there are obligations.”

She says, in terms of pay equity, there will be a commitment to make some lump sum payments before the end of November.

“There will be significant lump sum payments, some parameters around safe staffing and some immediate actions to address some of the nursing shortage crisis that we’re in.”