Nurses reach pay agreement

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has welcomed nurses accepting the latest pay deal but accepts more needs to be done. Photo: Lynn Grieveson.

Nurses have voted to ratify the latest pay deal from district health boards, ending the looming threat of industrial action.

The current agreement, worth $520 million, is the fifth offer to nurses and comes after a 24-hour strike on July 12.

NZ Nurses Organisation representative Cee Payne said voter turnout for the agreement was high, with a “significant majority” voting in favour.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said nurses had felt undervalued over recent years, but there was more work to be done.

“This settlement will go a long way to addressing nurses’ concerns, but the Government accepts there is still more to be done to better support them,” Ardern said.

National leader Simon Bridges said the “saga” of pay negotiations showed the Government had not managed expectations.

“I think if the Government hadn’t got their expectations out of kilter, if they had frankly been more competent and in control of this issue, we would have got there earlier,” Bridges said.

He said the episode was just the first of more strikes to come.

“We're going to see much more striking and industrial unrest, and again the Government’s only got itself to blame for the expectations they’ve set wrongfully and I think their lack of control over these issues,” he said.

The agreement involves three pay increases of three percent, two of which take place immediately. They are followed by a third increase next year, and a commitment to a pay equity agreement designed and implemented by the end of 2019. Five hundred extra nurses will also be recruited to deal with demand.

Jim Green, chief executive of the Tairawhiti District Health Board and spokesman for all DHBs, said work would now begin to “rebuild the trust that is key to the team-based approach to patient care”.

“This is a substantial package to address the workforce issues raised by our people and part of a wider initiative to attract, develop and retain our vital nurses and midwives in their careers,” Green said.

Negotiations were possibly improved by an accord, brokered by Health Minister David Clark, to implement safe staffing under the Care Capacity Demand Management (CCDM) tool.