Nurses vote ‘overwhelmingly’ to accept pay equity offer

July 31, 2023

After more than a year of litigation, more than 30,000 nurses, health-care assistants (HCAs) and other kaimahi hauora have voted “overwhelmingly” to accept Te Whatu Ora’s pay equity offer.

Under the settlement, nurses will receive a lump sum payment of up to $15,000 (in addition to $10,000 already paid) and a 4.5 per cent increase on the equity rates proposed in 2021 for most nurses, health-care assistants, midwives and kaiāwhina, and a 6.5 per cent increase for senior nurses. These would apply from March 7, 2022, onwards.

Advertisement

Details of the settlement can be found here. A separate vote on Te Whatu Ora’s revised collective agreement offer opens August 1, when voting details would be sent to members. A decision on the offer — and a planned August 9 strike — was expected by August 7.

Advertisement

Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa — NZNO chief executive Paul Goulter said the result was a historic milestone for nursing and a “long overdue step towards addressing significant gender-based inequality nurses, midwives, health-care assistants and kaimahi hauora face in their work every day”.

‘Just a beginning’

However, settling the pay equity claim was “just a beginning” — pay parity for all nurses was next, he said.

“NZNO will not rest until these new rates addressing gender inequality are extended to every nurse, everywhere in Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Advertisement

All nurses needed to be paid the same according to their qualifications and experience, no matter where they worked, Goulter said.

Paul Goulter with NZNO member Lisa Blackmore earlier this year

It would mean nurses could work “where they believe they can best contribute, rather than where they can earn enough to pay the bills”. It would also help end the discriminatory wages and conditions faced by Māori and iwi, Pasifika, rural and other disadvantaged health service providers, Goulter said.

“We look forward to working with Te Whatu Ora to address other forms of gender-based discrimination nurses face.”

The settlement covers members of NZNO and the Public Service Association (PSA), as well as some non-union members.

The result also had two important implications, Goulter said.

Firstly, that the salary scales in the Te Whatu Ora collective agreement offer would be those set out under new pay equity rates (in appendix one).

Secondly, all nursing pay equity litigation before the Employment Relations Authority and Employment Court would cease.

The pay equity and back pay claims have been embroiled in litigation since early 2022. However, the battle stretches back to 2017 when both unions, NZNO and PSA, lodged a pay equity claim under the Equal Pay Act (1972). That came hard on the heels of a historic equal pay settlement by E Tū union for  55,000 care and support workers fronted by Kristine Bartlett.

Ending gender-based pay discrimination

Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall said today’s result meant more than 30,000 Te Whatu Ora-employed nurses would receive a pay rise and one-off lump sum payment to address historic pay equity issues.

“This Government values nurses, and ending gender-based pay discrimination is a crucial part of our work in this area,” Verrall said in a statement.

Ayesha Verrall

Higher pay would also improve the retention of nurses and address workforce shortages, she said.

“We’re also committed to improving pay rates for our nurses to help address decades of under-payment, and to remove the undervaluation of work performed by women.”

Already, there had been a 60 per cent increase in nurses — another 8000 — registering in 2022 compared to the previous year, she said.

Further details about the pay equity claim can be found here.

  • Kaitiaki will be reporting more fully on these issues after the Te Whatu Ora collective offer member ballot closes next week.