Kia ora, ko Hannah Cook tōku ingoa.
I have been an NZNO delegate since 2011 and national NZNO delegate for Whānau Āwhina Plunket since 2020.
Our NZNO-Whānau Āwhina Plunket collective agreement expired on March 1, 2022, with initiation of bargaining commencing in mid-January 2022. Since then, the bargaining team has made good progress, meeting with the Whānau Āwhina Plunket team over four days, and reaching agreement in principle on a number of improvements in conditions for members across all represented groups.
To return to the negotiating table this May and be offered a zero per cent wage offer was a real slap in the face and not what members had mandated we accept.
At the last round of negotiations in mid-2021, we temporarily agreed to forego a wage claim, as most members were paid at similar levels, or at parity, to DHB members at the time. Instead, we focused on an increase to sick leave, pay rises for administration and Family Start staff (who support expectant parents) and opening up a 40-hour week to those who wanted.
We had agreed to a very short collective agreement so we could return to bargaining as soon as the DHB had settled its new pay rates – which occurred in October 2021.
The DHB/Te Whatu Ora registered nurse (RN) hourly pay rate now ranges from $28.68 to $42.55 against $25.98 to $39.88 for a Whānau Āwhina Plunket RN, and we again are seeking parity with their rate.
However, pay negotiations hit a major challenge after our employer stated their position of a zero per cent wage offer. As a bargaining team we were stunned and thought ‘surely this is not right’.
I have been a Well Child nurse with Whānau Āwhina Plunket for the last 20-plus years, initially out in the community doing face-to-face work, and since 2007 on PlunketLine providing telephone support nationally. I have also qualified as an international lactation consultant and provide virtual lactation support via telephone and video conferencing around the motu.
When I talk with my colleagues, it is evident there is huge passion and a sense of pride in the challenging yet rewarding work we do. I hear time and time again, what a privilege it is to work with whānau who often are reluctant or struggle to access other services and how rewarding it is seeing whānau thrive and making a real difference in communities. Many of us have dedicated a large portion of our working lives to work with Whānau Āwhina Plunket as we believe so much in what the organisation has to offer whānau. Being able to walk alongside a family, support them to advocate for themselves and their pēpi and to make a difference every day is a real privilege.
My colleagues and I — including frontline workers, admin support, clinical leaders and other roles — are committed and passionate about the work we do. It is such a privilege to be able to work with whānau to improve their health outcomes, prevent unnecessary GP appointments and help them to parent the best way they can and achieve what they want with their whānau.
Over the last few years, working conditions have been deeply challenging and we have all been working incredibly hard through the 2019/20 measles epidemic and the COVID pandemic. We contended with huge changes in the way we work, moving to virtual appointments while juggling our families, and turning our focus to priority populations under the Whānau Āwhina Plunket new targeted approach. Through all of this we were hoping for recognition in the form of a decent pay rise.
To return to the negotiating table this May and be offered a zero per cent wage offer was a real slap in the face and not what members had mandated we accept. The last pay rise most members had received was June 2020 — more than two years ago.
NZNO members at Whānau Āwhina Plunket staff are doing such good mahi that it is heart-breaking seeing our colleagues so stretched they are considering giving up a job they love.
Our high hopes of getting a significant pay increase to match that of DHB/Te Whatu Ora nurses, has been keeping us going in these challenging times. Some of the words my colleagues used to describe how they are feeling include: “insulted”, “overwhelmed”, “unappreciated”, “pissed off”, “hopeless”, “let down”, “shocked”, “speechless”, “offended”, “unacceptable”, “a slap in the face”, “a joke”, “hurt”, “angered” and “unvalued”. The flow-on effect of the zero wage offer has been that numerous staff have applied for other jobs or are actively considering early retirement. Morale overall is low.
The bargaining team will reconvene on August 26 for further negotiations. Whānau Āwhina Plunket has advised they were insufficiently funded by the Ministry of Health to provide a pay increase to NZNO members. They were concerned about the sustainability of the organisation if they were to go further into debt by increasing wages. We are also concerned about the longevity of the organisation when there is a zero per cent wage offer, the message that sends to members and how demoralising this is.
With our members leaving Plunket as a result, we are concerned there won’t be enough frontline staff to do the job we are employed to do. NZNO members at Whānau Āwhina Plunket staff are doing such good mahi that it is heart-breaking seeing our colleagues so stretched they are considering giving up a job they love. Love alone does not put food on the table, pay the mortgage, or buy the petrol to get to and from work.
We will continue to strongly advocate in the face of a demoralising zero percent “increase” offer, and again we will be following our strong mandate from members to seek parity with fellow DHB/Te Whatu Ora members.
Post-MECA pay disparity for Plunket nurses
|RN Steps||Whānau Āwhina Plunket||DHB MECA Community Nurse|