Plan for more strike action finalised

November 1, 2020

NZNO issued a strike notice late last month covering some 3200 primary health care (PHC) nurses and receptionist/administration staff across more than 500 practices and accident/medical centres nationwide.

The first 24-hour strike was due to be held on November 9, with a further 24-hour strike scheduled to take place on November 23.

PHC members voted overwhelmingly in favour of the strikes – “a clear indication of their frustration, anger and disappointment, and of how tired they are of being constantly undervalued after 10 months of fruitless negotiations”, said PHC industrial adviser Chris Wilson.

This follows two national rounds of stop work meetings and a one-day strike on September 3.

“Despite assurances from the Ministry of Health, district health board (DHB) representatives and employers in September that there is finally a commitment to pay parity with staff employed in DHBs, there has been no tangible progress to enable a return to the negotiating table, so the strike notice has been served,” Wilson said.

“It is very disappointing we have to take this step. Funders and the Government must join with the employers of this workforce and act with urgency to appropriately value their primary health care workforce and halt the staff recruitment and retention issues plaguing the sector.”

At the end of October, the Minister of Health had encouraged NZNO members to continue using the Employment Relations Authority to help progress a settlement, Wilson said, “but we have already been to mediation with no progress because the Government will not address the funding issue at the heart of the problem. Our members are now feeling more fobbed off and angrier than ever”.

Wilson said it was unfathomable that strike action should be required, with significant disruptions to services in the community, when all these PHC nurses and staff wanted was to be paid the same.

“They are not asking more than what is just – equal pay for work of equal value. We call on new Health Minister Andrew Little to find a solution. NZNO is willing to meet at any time to resolve this impasse.”

At press time, a national plan for activities on November 9 was being confirmed. This would include national rallies and gatherings from midday and a march to the Ministry of Health in Wellington. Strike notices for the 24-hour strike on November 23 were also served early this month.