DHBs run public campaign against health workers in effort to resolve pay dispute

The latest offer from the DHBs to NZNO members has been released to media — not members. In a seemingly tactical move — DHB representatives held a media conference to the media concerning the latest offer — or at least a misrepresentation of it. This release of information included a strong intention to confuse salaries by including overtime and penal rates. The goal was not a better offer — but to play into public opinion.

No significant change to offer

The latest offer is here. The offer is very similar to the panel recommendations which received a cold response from members and from Health Sector Workers Network (HSWN). The only difference that we can see is the inclusion of two further salary band steps for inpatient Registered Nurses and Midwives (RN/RM). Currently there are only 5 steps to this RN/RM pay scale. These new steps will be phased in over 2 years. Meaning that the extra RN/RM Step 6 will be $72,944 introduced from 3 December 2018 and RN/RM Step 7 –will be $77,386 introduced from 2 December 2019. This is a positive step for the inpatient RNs and RMs — but leaves community nurses and midwives, Health Care Assistants (HCAs) and Enrolled Nurses (ENs) out of the equation.

As an example — for HCAs the increase is still 3% per year. This does not compare to HCA counter-parts in the aged-care sector (Figure 1). Based on this offer, the highest paid HCA (Step 4) in the DHB will be earning from:

  • 4th June 2018 = $21.12 per hour or $43,929.50
  • 6th August 2018 = $21.75 per hour or $45,247.39
  • 5th August 2019 = $22.40 hour or $46,604.81

As can be clearly seen — this is nowhere near the top aged-care sector rates for each of the following years.

As can be clearly seen — this is nowhere near the top aged-care sector rates for each of the following years.

Figure 1: Aged-Care sector pay rates for Health Care Assistants following pay-equity settlement.

Forgetting the value of community

A number of community health workers — including Community Mental Health Nurses, District Nurses and Public Health Nurses and Community Midwives — will miss out. The increase to the inpatient RN/RM steps is for hospital RN/RMs and therefore does not include the community nurses/midwives scales. These steps already have 8 steps — with increases between each step accessed on yearly appraisal of ‘suitable performance’. Community nurses and midwives work often more autonomously and across diverse and challenging environments — these additional steps are seen as recognition of that. This latest offer reduces the difference from inpatient scales to community scales. This offer seems to forget the value of community.

A public campaign to disempower the value of health workers

In what could be easily been seen as an effort to sway public opinion the offer from the DHBs was sent to media first. This release highlighted salary figures utilising penal rates and overtime to display ‘average earnings’. This is misleading and disrespectful to health workers. It seems to be the start of a campaign to disempower the value of health workers. Media are reporting a pay deal that is nearly double the offer. But this is not true — it is only partially true for some members working high amounts of night shifts, weekends and only after progressive increases over 3 years. The inclusion of penal rates is clearly used to bloat a yearly salary. Penal rates should not be considered because they are just that… penalty rates. These rates are the additional benefits to workers for working unsociable hours — hour away from family, friends and regular living.

This move should show members that the government and DHBs are worried about a large scale movement. People should see that information is having to be misrepresented to counter public support for health sector workers.

This move should show members that the government and DHBs are worried about a large scale movement. People should see that information is having to be misrepresented to counter public support for health sector workers.

Staffing — more staff but no surprises

HSWN support the additional funding for staffing. This offer from the DHBs affirms the panel recommendations. This is long overdue and is more about safety than reconciliation. There are no surprises with the continuation of the CCDM programme — as HSWN has commented. As a programme which is cheaper than ‘nurse to patient’ ratios — we can see why the DHBs will continue to slowly support this model of staffing. There are no surprises that the DHBs did not propose a pathway to minimum staffing ratios.

What is the next step?

We reiterate the points made in this previous post. This is the moment for a large scale movement to bring about better pay and conditions. This deal does not resolve these issues. A NO vote for this latest offer will set in motion a campaign that can actually win better pay and conditions for ALL health sector workers. Get ready for the 5th and 12th of July. Let us organise. Let us build.

In solidarity,

Health Sector Workers Network

#strike4health

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