What is the price of industrial action? We need those who stay behind

July 1, 2021

As we move into another phase of ongoing district health board (DHB) member industrial action, we should stop and spare a thought for those who stay on to hold the fort.

There is still ample enthusiasm from DHB members to continue with action – after all, the offers to date are far from what was originally sought.

Then, for good measure, the DHBs threw in an advance on equity money that would be coming to members anyway; and dropped a pay freeze – like a full bedpan – on the public sector in the middle of negotiations.

Members, facing intense pressure in their everyday work, and enticing offers from overseas for their valuable skills, couldn’t be blamed for feeling angry.

What the ultimate outcome of this bargaining will be is not yet clear, but we do know that nothing could happen without the nurses who agree to fill the roster for life-preserving services (LPS).

I’m tipping my hat to those who made the sacrifice in the first strike to stay on for this work.

In this edition, we look at the work done by the LPS nurses, speaking to members who worked through the strike so that it could go ahead. We examine the professional and industrial complexities of LPS through the insights of our NZNO staff. See Why we need you to work, while colleagues strike and Away from the picket line – those who stay behind.

Regardless of the legal niceties of LPS, it must be galling for the nurses who stayed on to know that maintaining safe staffing levels – a major part of the action – is still lagging from what was promised in the 2018 MECA.

About half the 20 DHBs have yet to fully implement the safe staffing programme, care capacity demand management (CCDM) by the June 31 deadline.

There are multiple challenges facing the health system, not least the question of recruitment and retention of nursing staff. Listening to our members would be a good start, I would have thought.

Wherever this action ends up, we can’t get there without doing it together.

Those that go out need those that stay behind. And those that stay behind for LPS, well, they need our recognition and appreciation.

I say, cheers to them.