Nurses already reasonably well-paid, Q+A panellist argues

Source: Q and A

Nurses across Aotearoa have rejected the Government's latest offer and signalled they are set to strike again this month, as Health Minister Andrew Little criticised the move.

Little said nurses had "rejected their own union's proposal".

On this week's Q+A panel, former National Party press secretary turned PR consultant Ben Thomas argued that the recent pay increases have been substantial and that nurses were reasonably well compensated for their work.

“We are a low-wage economy compared to comparable Western countries.

"We can't compete money-wise with Australia. And it is unfortunately unrealistic to expect that.

"Nurses are reasonably well paid, maybe not compared to policy analysts, maybe not compared to Government department managers, Ministry of Health officials, but compared to everyday people going to work, they're not exactly on the breadline.”

But Sue Moroney, a former Labour MP who used to work for the nurses union, says what the nurses are arguing for is more than pay rates.

“When the union was negotiating during that last half-day strike to keep the life preserving levels of staff in place … those were higher than what those wards normally had on a day-to-day basis, that's an outrage.

"The New Zealand public should not stand for that and neither should the nurses.”

Academic Emmaline Pickering-Martin says practically every Kiwi knows a nurse, and the conditions they face daily.

“[They’re] overworked, very tired, can't do their job safely, being paid not enough ever. So that's not even encouraging our young people to look at that as a career. And if we're looking for workforce development in the future and we're trying to get those staffing levels to a level that is a little bit safe, we need to be encouraging more people to come into the profession.

"Then, yeah, we all see how burnt-out nurses are. I don't see why they can't just be given what they're asking for.”

Moroney agrees that conditions are turning away future nurses.

“I've always been of the view that you cannot pay a nurse enough money to turn up into an environment where they know they cannot deliver quality care day-in and day-out.

"That's just excruciating for nurses and that's why they are having real trouble recruiting.”