Govt wants nurses' pay equity settlement talks to begin

Source: 1News

The Government wants to begin negotiations about the nurses’ pay equity settlement immediately, with Cabinet promising money for the eventual agreement. 

Health Minister Andrew Little acknowledged the process of working towards equitable pay in the sector was “more complicated than originally thought”, which was why it was still underway. 

“No one is at fault, it is the way it is.”

He said he’d written to unions, DHBs and the Ministry of Health on Tuesday to commence negotiations on the pay equity settlement immediately. 

From there, the Cabinet had committed to “funding to meet the cost of the resulting agreement”, Little said. 

He expected the settlement would be the “most significant” New Zealand had ever seen. 

“I said before that it is my expectation that the pay equity claim, once agreed, will add hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the current payroll for nurses. This is still my expectation,” he said.

“We know that nurses are underpaid, and that’s why we’re committed to pay equity.”

It comes as midwives and nurses prepare to walk off the job on Thursday

About 30,000 nurses from the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) and 1500 midwives from the MERAS union are expected to hold strikes. 

Earlier this month, NZNO lead advocate David Wait said the rejected pay offer failed "to set out clearly how safe staffing will be addressed and how the DHBs will be held accountable for it". 

Little said he understood members of the PSA union were considering their latest offer. 

He also said he knew nurses weren’t just looking for better pay, but safe staffing levels too. 

To try and address other concerns health professionals had, Little said he would be appointing four people to form a new nursing advisory group. 

Nurses seen striking

The group would review the implementation of the Care Capacity Demand Management programme — tools and processes DHBs use to better match patient demand with their capacity to care.

An announcement about who would be in that group would come in the next few days, Little said.