Whakarongorau’s telehealth nurses finally settle pay deal

November 22, 2023

After eight months of negotiations, two strikes, nationwide rallies and mediation, frontline nurses have finally voted to accept a new offer from national telehealth service Whakarongorau — calling off two looming strikes.

Telehealth nurses will receive a four per cent pay rise and up to $4000 in lump sum payments, after two more payments of up to $1000 were added to an earlier $2000.

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A living wage of at least $26 per hour for the lowest paid workers was also part of a revised offer from Whakarongorau, after its earlier offer was rejected in September.

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‘We’ve shown them that they need to take us seriously for the next lot of negotiations.’

NZNO Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa delegate Bruce Tomlinson said it had been a “long and drawn-out affair” but was satisfied with the deal — for now.

Bruce Tomlinson at Hokitika’s rally in September.

“We’ve got a really good deal for our members who were taking the lowest wages — we’ve got a living wage and better conditions for those staff,” he told Kaitiaki. “The other thing that’s important is we’ve shown them that they need to take us seriously for the next lot of negotiations.”  These were likely to start before the proposed new deal ended on June 30, 2024.

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‘This milestone provides certainty for them and for the people of Aotearoa, who rely on the free-to-the-public 24/7 services we provide.’

Strike action called off

Staff rallied then went on two 24-hour strikes in September and October. Two more strikes planned for this month were called off after Whakarongorau’s NZNO and Public Service Association (PSA) members voted to accept the revised offer on November 9.

Whakarongorau staff on strike in Wellington last month

Whakarongorau paid out $2000 to all its telehealth nursing staff in September, and has agreed to pay members another $500-$1000, depending on their role, this month and again in June 2024.

Whakarongorau also rounded up its proposed pay rise from 3.75 to four per cent. Its initial offer was 2.5 per cent.

Some senior nurses also received wage increases of eight to nine per cent from the Government’s $200 million pay parity fund back paid to July 1, 2023.

Whakarongorau chief employee experience officer Anna Campbell said they were “delighted” to have reached agreement with a “significant settlement”.

Anna Campbell

With the three lump sums, pay increases ranged from 7.8 to 22.2 per cent under the deal, she said.

“This milestone provides certainty for them and for the people of Aotearoa, who rely on the free-to-the-public 24/7 services we provide.”

Whakarongorau has more than 40 phone or web-based health services, including Healthline, 1737 Need to talk? along with crisis services like 111 mental health support and ambulance triaging.

Tomlinson said members would be pushing for a pay rise that better matched cost of living increases in the next bargaining round.

He said there were lots of “unanswered questions” around the profits made from the telehealth service by Whakarongorau’s owners, primary health organisations Pegasus and Procare.

Campbell has said while the social enterprise did have a $7 million surplus in 2021/22 due to the Government’s COVID funding, it made a loss in 2022/23 and was forecast to do so again.

Whakarongorau offer summary
  • A minimum living wage of $26 per hour, from October 27, 2023.
  • Pay parity wage increases of eight to nine per cent for eligible senior nurses [from the Government $200 million pay parity fund] back paid to July 1, 2023.
  • A four per cent increase from October 27, 2023, for those roles not covered by pay parity or living wage increases mentioned above.
  • Two lump sum payments of $500 to $1000 for all members, one now and one next June. (This follows a $2000 lump payment made during bargaining).