COVID-19 lockdown affects negotiations across sector

September 1, 2021

From primary health to hospitals, the shift to alert level 4 made hard work of progress on negotiations.

With the primary health care (PHC) multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) set to expire on August 31, the nationwide shift to alert level 4 created uncertainty about negotiation dates.

However, the NZNO team requested a joint meeting with Health Minister Andrew Little, the Medical Association and Green Cross Health as soon as possible to discuss funding for pay parity in this year’s MECA.

The alert level change also saw meetings and negotiations postponed on the Family Planning collective agreement – expiring at the end of August as well.

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond said members would not be disadvantaged by postponement of negotiation dates.

Meanwhile NZ Blood Service bargaining on a new collective – the current agreement expires on December 10 – continued await the outcome of the DHB MECA negotiations. The DHB negotiations remained at a standstill – with a planned August 19 strike called off after the latest COVID-19 outbreak. This came after members voted in strong numbers to reject the latest offer from the 20 DHBs.

The deadline for notification of the planned strike on September 9/10 also passed. The decision to hold off came amidst concerns about being able to plan adequately for providing life-preserving services, as well as the impact on public support for members if they voted to strike during a community outbreak of COVID-19.

Bargaining continued with the DHBs, facilitated by the Employment Relations Authority. With no agreement reached with the DHBs, the authority has stepped in and would make recommendations to the parties on matters where they had not reached agreement.

The final proposal would then be shared with members, who would vote on ratification.

Meanwhile the proposed PHC MECA with Healthcare NZ and NZ Care, developed through mediation, was rejected by members. This was the second time members rejected a proposal. The negotiation team was considering its next steps.

At time of publication, there had been no response from the employers.