Police prepare for ‘torrid’ pay claims

Following the lead of nurses, teachers and other groups of government workers the Police Association is preparing for wage claims. They will have a good argument to at least maintain parity with teachers and nurrses.

NZH: Pay, recruitment and retention in the mix for Police Association in negotiations

Police are beginning to press their claims for better pay and conditions, with negotiations between their union and their bosses beginning this week.

Among the issues concerning frontline officers are recruitment, retention and pay.

The Police Association has warned its members in its monthly magazine Police News that there could be some “torrid negotiations” ahead which it says it is well-prepared for.

The negotiations come at a time marked by industrial action in the public sector. Nurses have already been on strike, primary school teachers will strike next month, ACC senior doctors walked off the job this week, and MBIE and IRD staff have been on strike.

Government wage bills look like being under significant pressure as different worker groups look to take as much advantage of a Labour led government.

Urging Government to borrow more to pay nurses and teachers more

Both nursing and teacher groups are on a roll. They have already been offered pay raises significantly more than average pay raises – they say it is necessary to catch up ‘after nine years of neglect’ and to attain pay parity.

They say for the good of children and their sectors the Government must borrow more to pay them.

What they don’t say is what a likely flow on effect would be if they get pay increases well over 10%.

Newshub Nation had a decent panel discussion on this today (their panel discussions are often brief and rushed).

Nurses vote to strike on Thursday

Nurses have voted to go ahead with a strike on Thursday, seeking more pay than the current offer that probably looks quite generous to most people.

RNZ:  Hospitals prepare for nurses strike

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) rejected the latest district health board pay offer yesterday, saying more money was needed to avert the strike.

The Employment Relations Authority has ordered them back into talks which are due to continue today.

As negotiations have unfolded, so too have plans for life-preserving services during the 24-hour industrial action, scheduled to start at 7am tomorrow.

This means a lot of disruption, especially for people scheduled for operations, treatments and outpatient appointments. It will take a lot of organising by hospitals to cope.

Wellington’s Capital and Coast DHB’s chief medical officer John Tait estimated 6000-8000 elective procedures nationwide will need to be deferred.

It would pose major challenges for the country’s 20 DHBs but medical directors have insisted they’re as prepared as they can be, he said.

Sue Hayward, chief nursing and midwifery officer at Waikato District Health Board, said an agreed number of nurses would working during the strike – a measure taken with the support of the NZNO.

They can’t just clear out all the hospitals so some care is still required.

Director of child health at Starship, Dr Mike Shepherd, said Auckland District Health Board was as well prepared as it could be.

“We’ve been contingency planning now for a couple of weeks because of the need to reduce the number of patients in the hospital and to make sure we’re able to provide safe services over the strike period.

Dr Vanessa Thornton, chief medical officer at Counties Manakau DHB, said acute services would be prioritised during the strike.

“Obviously the elective side of the services will be cancelled because we won’t be able to provide that service. Winter is a busy time for us and so we have prepared our life-preserving services around our current occupancy and acuity.”

Bay of Plenty DHB chief medical officer Hugh Lees said they had a reasonable idea of the number of emergency patients they would normally get, though couldn’t be certain.

ODT:  Nurses’ strike affects 450 patients

The Southern District Health Board has started contacting hundreds of patients to cancel and reschedule appointments booked for tomorrow, after nurses voted to strike.

Up to 75% of the frontline health workforce will be missing from work tomorrow, when members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation go on strike.

About 450 patients at Dunedin and Southland hospitals will be affected by the strike.

Industrial action scheduled for last Thursday by about 30,000 NZNO members was averted by a last-minute revision of the DHBs’ pay offer, a change the NZNO recommended members accept.

However, members rejected it, meaning tomorrow’s strike remains on.

”The vote was closer this time … but we have a simple majority rule and that simple majority was met,” NZNO industrial services manager Cee Payne said.

”We would have to consider balloting further [on strike action] if there was no shift at all in terms of the current impasse.”

Additional government funding to address NZNO members’ concerns about pay rates, pay equity and staffing issues would be needed to head off the strike, Ms Payne said.

A lot of disruption and cost. Probably not a lot of sympathy for nurses who already look like getting fairly sizeable pay increases.

Stuff: Acting PM Winston Peters ‘very disappointed’ by nurses strike decision

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters says the Government is “very disappointed” by the decision by the Nurses’ Union to strike.

“The Government’s offer would herald the highest pay increase by far for nurses in 14 long years,” said Peters.

He said the Government still believed there was time to avoid the strike.

I guess the strike could still be averted but that’s looking unlikely if a vote was needed to change the decision.

Labour pressured by friendly fire strike threats

It seems a bit ironic that wage claims and threats of strikes have ramped up substantially now Labour lead the Government. In opposition Labour seems closely associated with unions, the PSA and worker groups like the teachers and nurses, so why are they getting more militant now Labour hold then purse strings?

Payback for their electoral support – large scale payback, because it works.

Hamish Rutherford: Labour’s sympathetic ear means it is destined to feel far more pressure from unions

The timing of strike threats from a growing number of corners of the public sector, must be galling for the new Government.

After years of small increases under National, Labour arrives in the Beehive, makes an offer – then doubles it – and the nurses announce plans to walk off the job for the first time in a generation.

So why now? Why didn’t the nurses strike at any point during the last nine years?

“All of the concerns that you are hearing here, were raised with the previous government,” New Zealand Nurses Organisation chief executive Memo Musa said as the group formally rejected the Government’s $500 million offer. It was “not about sympathy” he added.

“The issue now, is pretty much an issue of timing.”

In part it will be economic timing – National tool over in 2008 as the Global Financial Crisis struck and care was needed in spending during years of deficits. Inflation has also been very low for a decade now, and wage increases have been meagre for most workers.

So Labour taking over at the same that surpluses have come back – more money available and a friendly Government is an opportune time to push for a big lift in wages. And they are pushing hard.

Timing is everything, and the nurses are not alone in realising this.

Teachers – who admittedly have used industrial action regularly – are calling for “action”, with votes on strikes in August.

Thousands of core public servants are also being balloted on strikes. Although the proposed action by more than 4000 members of the Public Service Association – two two-hour strikes in July – will hardly bring the nation to a halt, the way it is being billed is telling.

The PSA has opted for “co-ordinated” action across Inland Revenue and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), with national secretary Glenn Barclay saying it was “a big deal because we haven’t had industrial action in the public service for a long time”.

Labour will come under more pressure from the unions for a good reason.

It is not just that expectations are higher, it is that the Government has a sympathetic ear. Unions are likely to protest more under the current administration because it will work.

Labour have already raised minimum wages, and promise more increases. They may get pushed by threats of strikes to give generous increases to nurses, teachers and other public servants.

This will be good for the economy, short term.

But it will put a lot of pressure on companies to pay more too, or public-private wage disparities will increase.

If private sector wages are forced to follow Government wage generosity this will likely lead to price inflation as well.And there will be pressure to increase benefits.

Will we end up any better off?

Nurses reject large pay offer, Government says no more available

Nurses have rejected a half billion dollar pay offer. In response Health Minister David Clark says there is no more money available to “fix nine years of underfunding in one pay round”.

They have been offered a 9% increase but are seeking 15% – that’s a huge adjustment given the low rate of inflation and pay rises over the past decade.

Nurses’ Union:

NZNO seeking urgent mediation

The latest revised DHB MECA offer has been strongly rejected by NZNO members. However, Industrial Services Manager Cee Payne says that as nursing and midwifery is an essential service, mediation or facilitation will begin with urgency. NZNO remains committed to working with DHBs to find a resolution to this impasse and avoid strike action.

“The immediate staffing crisis as a result of the past decade of underfunding of DHBs has taken a heavy toll on nurses and their ability to provide safe patient care.

“Whilst the revised offer was substantially improved, compared to the previous one on pay for some members, members have rejected this. There may be concern about the variability of the offered pay increases.

“The revised DHB MECA offer on pay equity fails to specify how and when outcomes will be implemented. This has created uncertainty for members,” she said.

What is curious is why the NZNO aare taking such strong action seeking such a large settlement now that Labour are leading the Government, but did relatively little over “the past decade of underfunding”.

The Government response:

Minister disappointed nurses reject $500m offer

Health Minister Dr David Clark says he is disappointed that nurses have voted against the District Health Boards’ half-billion dollar offer, the largest made to nurses in more than a decade.

“Nurses are a vital part of our health workforce and clearly feel they have been undervalued over the last nine years. Their frustration is understandable. This offer goes a long way to address their pay and staffing concerns, but you cannot fix nine years of underfunding in one pay round.

“The deal that’s been rejected today is the largest nurses and midwives have been offered since their historic pay jolt 14 years ago under the last Labour-led government.

…the Government has to balance pay demands across the public sector. We have gone as far as we can in terms of extra Government money but hopefully the offer can be reconfigured in a way nurses are happy with.

It seems that nurses have a habit of pushing for pay jolts when Labour is in charge of the finances.

Perhaps they do deserve to be paid substantially more, but this puts the Government in an awkward position.

They are already making a large offer. If they give nurses a big catch-up then it’s likely teachers will be asking for something similar, mental health workers are also trying to get (deserved) increases. The police may then want to maintain parity.

This will substantially increase government spending, and could put pressure on non-government workers who will be left relatively worse off.

Everyone wants to be paid more, but no one wants to be taxed more, or pay higher mortgage and interest rates, or to pay higher prices for goods forced up by wage induced inflation.

Business confidence is wavering at the moment. Uncertainty over the cost of wages won’t help.

This is a very challenging environment for the Government.