Old MECA promises still unmet

June 1, 2021

Nursing safety – in everyday work and the age of COVID-19 – were scrutinised by the NZNO board as strike action rolled out across Aotearoa.

West Coast nurse Patruzka Dizon-Ferrer prepares for strike action
West Coast nurse Patruzka Dizon-Ferrer prepares for strike action

Amidst a district health board (DHB) strike in a battle over a new collective agreement, board members have warned key promises from the last settlement remain unresolved.

NZNO kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said nurses accepted the 2018 offer because of its safe staffing accord. The accord was meant to ensure the implementation of care capacity demand management (CCDM, a safe staffing system). “What’s happened is it seems to now have been absorbed into ‘business-as-usual’.”

The longer the issue dragged on unresolved, the less likely there would be a commitment to make change.

NZNO was now negotiating a new agreement before the last one was fully implemented, she said. “And so we’re at the table yet again, talking about safe staffing and the same issues.”

Board member Simon Auty said DHB nurses were angry, “but they’re angry about more than just their pay packets”. Safe staffing was central to the latest DHB negotiations, he said.

However, Auty said multiple DHBs had failed to meet the deadline to fully implement CCDM. “We’ve still got new grads who haven’t been employed, which was also part of the accord.”

DHBs were not regularly reporting progress, and some had not even bought the software to implement it, he said.

New COVID-19 variants

West Coast nurses prepare for strike action
West Coast nurses prepare for strike action

Meanwhile, the board had discussed the Government’s response to the potential arrival of new COVID-19 variants.

Nuku said members were keen for the Office of the Auditor General to independently review Government preparedness to deal with new variants.

She said 12 per cent of the COVID-19 cases in Aotearoa were suffered by health workers.

The lack of support for nurses was another example of the Government ignoring nurses’ concerns. “It’s a criticism of the fact that nurses don’t seem to be important in the re-development and management of a crisis.”

Auty said the Ministry of Health still had the same PPE advice on its website from July 2020.

“Nurses were never brought in to the Government’s advisory group. We were never there during the response, when we were responding to our members’ inquiries.”