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.