'Feelings of betrayal' over no back pay for nurses in settlement

Source: 1News

"We would like what we were promised."

Those are the words of Waitematā DHB nurse Neil Warrington after district health boards and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation revealed a pay equity settlement on Friday.

The settlement announced includes pay rises for nurses of around $6000 to $16,000 based on their nursing role and experience.

However, the new pay rates won't be back paid to December 31, 2019, which was agreed to by nurses in previous separate collective agreement pay rounds since the equity claims were lodged in 2017.

READ MORE: Historic pay settlement leaves some nurses feeling betrayed

Warrington told Breakfast there was "a lot of anger, feelings of betrayal and just nurses are being done over again" in the wake of this news.

"We're not sure why the union quite frankly agreed to this. We don't understand why they even brought this to the members, because this was just going to cause so much anger and so much hurt. What we were promised was what we were promised."

Asked by Breakfast's Matty McLean if he agreed nurses were strong-armed, Warrington said they were being strong-armed into accepting "a very small pay rise".

"To be offered $3000 more minus tax, plus a month's back pay, that's the sort of money we're being offered … It is an absolute slap in the face and again nurses being promised one thing and being told 'no you can't have it. It's not convenient."

Meanwhile, Josephine Gagan, chief executive of the New Zealand Health Group, said it was unacceptable nurses in the community were not part of pay equity talks.

She said there was now up to $30,000 difference in pay between nurses at DHBs and in the community due to the settlement.

"The pay gap is now very significant and we're extremely concerned of the impact on vulnerable New Zealanders and the fact these nurses and carers are likely to go and work in the DHBs.

"I'd like to see a more across the whole sector pay equity settlement that includes nurses and our care assistants and other health professionals, recognising the amazing work they do."

Asked by McLean what he would like, Warrington replied: "The back pay. We would like what we were promised. The deal is the deal. We were told the money is there to settle this properly. We want to settle this properly."

READ MORE: Fed-up nurses say they are understaffed and overworked

In response to claims he had made a full U-turn on back pay in the settlement, Health Minister Andrew Little's office provided the following statement: "What I said was that the implementation date would be December 31, 2019, as agreed in 2018, and that the Government was never opposed to back pay."

Later asked on Breakfast if the Government had backtracked on back pay, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there had been 20% increases in some nurses pay since Labour came into Government.

There had been a lump sum payment in the last pay settlement run, Ardern said, and there was another as part of the settlement to "acknowledge the time it has taken".

She said it was ultimately up to the nurses to decide if they would accept the settlement, when asked what she would say to nurses feeling betrayed.

Nurses have from April 20 to 29 to vote on the settlement.