Nurses pay disptute: Jacinda Ardern weighs in, urges DHB's to establish 'independent panel' to reach settlement

Source: 1News

The Prime Minister has advised DHBs establish an "independent panel" to resolve their pay dispute with the nurses union after they today rejected a two per cent pay rise.

Jacinda Ardern said in a post-cabinet media conference this afternoon, she would "like" to see an independent panel work through the barriers to reaching a settlement between DHBs nationwide and the NZ Nurses Organistaion (NZNO).

While acknowledging the Government could not intervene in the negotiations, Mr Ardern said similar independent advisory panels had helped industrial disputes in the past.

"I recognise that despite best efforts, negotiations haven't produced a result that is acceptable to our nurses," Ms Ardern said.

"I know nurses and the public will want us to explore any possible avenue to avoid industrial action.

"It's important to move quickly to address this impasse and remove the barriers."

The offer to the NZNO was for a two per cent pay rise, as well as a $1050 lump sum.

"I'd like to see DH's put forward a process to unlock the impasse which involves an independent panel being established which will review the barriers and make recommendations to both parties. This is of course subject to the NZNO's agreement," Ms Ardern said.

The Prime Minister also added that all DHBs around the country are currently running at a deficit, but said she could not disclose any funding boosts intended in this year's budget at this stage.

NZ Nurses Organistaion (NZNO) industrial services manager Cee Payne said today in a statement, negotiations with the DHB employer negotiating team had reached an impasse.

"The Employment Relations Authority requires us to continue to act in good faith with the DHB employers through this impasse. We remain open to any meaningful discussions with the DHB employer negotiating team," Ms Payne said.

"Our preference is to have the DHB MECA settled. Industrial action is the last resort in the event it is not settled."

Over 27,000 nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants, who are party to the DHB MECA all voted on whether to accept the pay offer, with votes closing last Friday.

"Mid-April NZNO will discuss the need for a ballot for industrial action with national elected delegates and staff," Ms Payne said.

"The nature of what industrial action might consist of will be decided then.

"We understand the impact that industrial action will impose on the health sector. Nurses are responsible and professional and will be concerned to ensure that adequate life preserving

services will be available should a strike occur."

NZNO has today launched a campaign #HealthNeedsNursing with the website: to explain the issues surrounding nursing midwifery teams pay fairness, and how it relates to safe patient care.

The NZNO has also sent an email out to all union members assuring them their "voice has been heard" through their vote, and encouraging them campaign as a volunteer, and invite colleagues to join the union.

The NZNO members email also announces a week of "action events" relating to the pay dispute starting April 9.