‘Come and stand in solidarity’ — nurses everywhere prepare to rise up on April 15

March 27, 2023

‘We need to stand united, because we’re all nurses, we’re all in this together’. Nurses and health workers prepare to rise up — Maranga Mai! — for a national day of action.

Fed up with watching experienced palliative care nurses walking out the door for better paid jobs elsewhere, Nelson hospice nurse Donna Burnett is putting her nerves aside to speak up at NZNO Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa’s April 15’s day of action.

Actor Marianne Infante – aka Shortland Street head nurse Madonna Diaz — is MC for Auckland’s event.

“I’m not a public speaker, but I’m so passionate about this — it’s an opportunity I feel I need to embrace,” said Burnett, a nurse of 27 years and NZNO delegate for at least 15 — “a long long time”.

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Nurses and health-care workers are are gathering on April 15 to call for more nurses and better pay, with family-friendly rallies being held in communities around Aotearoa from 11am-1pm. Details of each can be found here, on Facebook and below.

Burnett said right now was “probably the biggest, most critical time I’ve seen in the hospice movement”.

‘We’re doing the job and yet we’re not recognised well enough as the specialists we are. So it’s a bittersweet sort of pill that we swallow.’

Years of inadequate government funding since hospices were split off from public hospitals in 2000, meant palliative staff were leaving hospices in droves for better pay in hospitals or aged care — a problem which had worsened in recent years as hospice pay rates dropped further behind.  “We can’t afford to keep losing them,” Burnett said.

“They talk about pay parity, and we’re now getting the word ‘relativity’ — because we’re never going to get there [parity].”

Providers of a small and highly specialised service, hospice staff — nurses, health-care assistants (HCAs) and administrators — felt overlooked by Government which focused on the larger collective agreements, Burnett said.

“We’re out there — we’ve got an in-reach team in the hospital, we’ve got an in-reach team in the aged residential care [ARC] services, we’ve got our own education team,” Burnett said. “We’re doing the job and yet we’re not recognised well enough as the specialists we are. So it’s a bittersweet sort of pill that we swallow.”

Clinical nurse specialist Charleen Waddell: “We’ve got to stand united.”

Te Whatu Ora Southern clinical nurse specialist Charleen Waddell, who is speaking at Dunedin’s rally, said she was making a stand for her primary health care (PHC) colleagues who were paid so much less.

‘We’ve got to support each other because we deserve to have pay parity across nursing rather than in silos in aged care, in primary health, in iwi and Māori providers.’

“The pay disparity between primary and secondary services is huge – and we’re also hoping for a universal MECA [multi-employer collective agreement] because as nurses we all train, we’re getting such big differences in pay parity, it’s just not fair.”

Formerly a PHC nurse in Bluff, Waddell said the pay disparity was partly why she left primary health, along with COVID burnout. PHC needed more support to “keep running  . . . and meeting the needs of the community.”

“We need to stand united, because we’re all nurses, we’re all in this together,” said Waddell, who is NZNO’s Te Rūnanga Te Tai Tonga representative. “We’ve got to support each other because we deserve to have pay parity across nursing, rather than in silos in aged care, in primary health, in iwi and Māori providers.”

‘At the end of the day, I want to make a difference, whether it be big or small, that’s what’s matters.’

Marianne Infante: “Let’s give our nurses the respect they are owed.”

On the day of action, NZNO will be launching a petition ‘we need nurses’ calling for 4000 more nurses, pay that values and attracts nurses across every sector and the removal of inequities and upholding of te Tiriti.

Actor Marianne Infante – aka Shortland Street head nurse Madonna Diaz — is MC for Auckland’s event. Infante said she was looking forward to supporting real-life nurses at the day of action.

“As an Equity Union board member I admire and back NZNO’s mahi in striving for better working conditions and better pay for their nurses!” Infante told Kaitiaki. “Let’s give our communities the health-care system we all deserve and give our nurses the respect they are owed.”

And back to Burnett, who is busy putting up posters and spreading the word for health workers to come along and “stand in solidarity”, the response from colleagues is “heartening”.

Burnett says she’s stuck it out over the years as she’s “totally passionate” about palliative care.

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“Death and dying does matter to me and it’s about making a difference, to make it as okay as we possibly can – it’s the little things. At the end of the day, I want to make a difference, whether it be big or small, that’s what’s matters.”

Nelson Hospice delegate Donna Burnett, NZNO chief executive Paul Goulter and Nelson Hospital delegate Carolynn Hannah.
April 15 day of action: What’s happening in your community?
Kerikeri 11am-1pm Gather outside the ANZ Bank, corner of Kerikeri Road and Fairway Drive, rally with speeches, gather signatures on petition, then whānau time.
Whangārei 11am-1pm Gather at Pūtahi Park, Town Basin (next to the Canopy Bridge).  Rally with speeches then whānau time with kai.
Dargaville 11am-1pm Gather at Countdown/The Warehouse carpark, Victoria Street, Dargaville, then speeches followed by fun and whānau activities.
Auckland 11am-2pm Gather at Myers Park, from 10.30am; march from Myers Park to Auckland Domain. Rally with speeches then whānau time with kai at Auckland Domain.
Hamilton 11am-1pm Gather at Hamilton Gardens, Cobham Drive (Rose Garden side near the playgound and rotunda by gate 2 entrance and carpark). BYO picnic and join together for speeches, activities, kai and music.
Tauranga 11am-1pm Gather at NZNO carpark, Tauranga. Hikoi from NZNO offices 141 Cameron Road, Tauranga to The Strand and back, stopping at Hairy Maclary Park and Red Square.  Return to NZNO for speeches, kai and refreshments.  FREE Parking available at 94 Durham Street carpark building.  Please do NOT park at NZNO.
Whakatāne 11am-1pm Gather at Wharaurangi, the Strand, for rally and speeches.
Gisborne 11am-2pm Gather at Heipipi park from 10am; march from Heipipi Park to Kelvin Park at 11am; rally with speeches then whānau time
Palmerston North 11am-1pm Picnic in The Square
Masterton 11am-1pm Meet at Town Hall Square. Bring a picnic, your family and a chair.
Wellington 11am-1pm Gather at Civic Square, march to Parliament, then speeches followed by BYO picnic, music and face painting.
Nelson 11am-1pm Gather at Tahunanui Beach, behind the Nightingale Memorial Library, then speeches followed by fun and whānau activities.
Kaikōura 11am-1pm Gather at the Esplanade opposite Dolphin Encounter.
Christchurch 11am-1pm Gather at Bridge of Remembrance for march to Victoria Square, then speeches followed by fun and whānau activities.
Ashburton 11am-1pm Meet at the BBQ area in Ashburton Domain for the rally and a free sausage sizzle.
Dunedin 11am-1pm Gather at First Church for march to the Octagon, then speeches followed by fun and whānau activities.