DHB offer ‘insulting’

April 1, 2021

NZNO members working in district health boards (DHBs) are poised to reject the multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) offer, now out for consideration.

As Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand went to press, indications were the offer would be roundly rejected, with some members describing it as “an April Fool’s Day joke” and “insulting”.

David Wait
David Wait

NZNO’s lead advocate, David Wait, said he was not surprised members were feeling that way, as the offer was “divisive”. It split the nursing and midwifery scales, with DHBs pointing to the cost of applying the offer across RN and RM scales. And it disregarded the value of senior nurses – those on grade 5 and above – who would not get a pay increase until May next year.

Under the offer, health-care assistants (HCAs) would receive a lump-sum payment of $900 on ratification, which was not added to the pay scale. Over two years, a four-step, qualifications-based pay scale would be introduced. This would boost HCAs’ pay by 5.6 to 12.2 per cent.

The start of the enrolled nurse scale would retain relativity with the top of the HCA scale.

Registered nurses (RNs) on steps 2-4 would receive $900 on ratification and a $1200 flat-rate increase on May 1 this year. Senior RNs on grades 5-8 would not receive the lump-sum payment. They would get a $1200 flat-rate increase from May 1, 2022.

Registered midwives (RMs) on grades 2-4 would get the $900 lump sum on ratification and a 1.25 per cent pay increase from May 1 this year. Senior RMs – grades 5-8 – would receive a 1.25 per cent pay increase from May 1 this year, which would bring their rates into line with midwifery union MERAS pay rates. But they would not get the lump sum.

All midwives would get a $1200 flat rate increase from May 1 next year.

In its presentation, the DHB team said that in the last round of bargaining there was a “real focus on nurses and midwives at the top of the MECA”, including the new steps 6 and 7 for RNs and RMs.

Their rationale for the offer also included an “atmosphere of pay restraint” and the Government’s commitment to closing the gap between the highest and lowest paid.

“While we are committed to making an offer that provides something for all members, we want to do something additional for your lowest paid members ahead of the pay equity settlement,” the team said in its presentation on the offer.

Wait rejected the DHB team’s contention that the last bargaining round focused on RNs and RMs at the top of the MECA. “That is not an accurate representation. The new steps 6 and 7 do not represent the top of the scale.”

He said it had been a long and difficult process for the bargaining team. “My overwhelming feeling now is that this is the point when members make their voices very clear and make a decision about what’s on offer and the next steps. Our focus continues to be on member voice and leadership.”

Mediation this month

Assuming the offer is dismissed, that will be relayed to the DHBs, along with what members think needs to be improved. Members’ views on the offer and what needed to be improved were being sought through a survey, which was still underway in early April. Members’ views would be presented to the DHB team at mediation, tentatively scheduled for the last week of this month.

If members indicate the offer is not acceptable, delegate-run member meetings are also scheduled to start at the end of this month. These will consider possible actions, including strike action, and campaign activities. After these meetings, an online strike ballot was possible, Wait said, unless the DHB team came back with a significantly improved offer.

“We will have had 20 days of bargaining, mediation and member meetings, so will have a very clear idea about what members want to do.”

Members would not take strike action lightly and would be mindful of the impact of any strike on the public, he said. “But COVID-19 has highlighted the importance and value of nursing work – the public know how important it is.”