Over the first few days of August, a secret ballot for industrial action was conducted by Public Service Association (PSA) members in the health sector. The result was a resounding yes to industrial action. More than one third of the 12,000 PSA health members participated in the on-line ballot with 90% voting in favour.
Allied Health, Technical and Nursing PSA members, including Physiotherapists, Occupational therapists, Speech Language Therapists, Sterile Supply Workers, Cardiology Technicians, Public Health Nurses and Mental Health Nurses, went to the secret ballot to protest the DHBs’ 0.7% per year pay offer. With a ‘Rock star Economy’ and Bill English’s 2014 budget assurances that, “[workers] are entitled to expect a share in the economic recovery”, the 0.7% offer is a kick in the guts for health workers.
The break down in bargaining isn’t just over the lousy pay increase. Training and development – essential for patient safety and delivering the quality care that the public expects and deserves, has not been addressed. The chronic underfunding of health in New Zealand has already led to a freeze on training and development in some DHBs for the first quarter of this financial year.
Career progression has also not been addressed with members widely dissatisfied with a performance-pay model that stifles career progression and lacks decent remuneration. The DHBs have even refused to commit to profession specific working parties to help address other key issues impacting on the health workforce.
The DHBs have said no to nearly all the claims put on the table and come back with an unacceptably low pay offer. Bargaining has now entered mediation. If unsuccessful, industrial action will begin in late August.
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) have come out in strong support of the vote for industrial action. The 46,000 NZNO members are up for bargaining next.