From the 5th to the 15th of June NZNO members in the DHBs will be voting on the latest offer.
After a protracted bargaining process since mid-last year, the involvement of a highly paid ‘independent’ panel and the threat of strike action in July — this vote has some significance attached to it. Will members vote no and go on strike?
There is a lot of discussion about the shortfalls of the latest offer. Health Sector Workers Network (HSWN) have made statements here and here to this effect. HSWN wanted to highlight a couple of additional points for people to think about and reflect on.
All eyes are on it — but why do others care?
This collective agreement covers 27,000 nurses, healthcare assistants and midwives in DHB across New Zealand. These negotiations will become the benchmark across the health sector. What happens here sets the bar for other negotiations — including the allied and nursing PSA negotiations, among others. This vote affects others and will have lasting impacts if members buckle now. So — while some people may say this decision doesn’t affect other people’s working conditions. This is actually not right. Decisions and actions affect others. The benefit of this power is that it can be used to achieve better pay and conditions for the wider sector.
As a comparison — there are just over 2700 nurses are under PSA collectives across DHBs — and this spilt is nearly 50:50 between Auckland and rest of New Zealand. The PSA Allied Collectives (which includes Occupational Therapists, Social Workers, and many other professional groups) has nearly 7900 members — but again these groups are split between Auckland (~37%) and the rest of New Zealand. What does this show? It shows that there is comparatively a lot more influence sitting with NZNO DHB members. This moment therefore is an opportunity to use this influence, continue the momentum and help secure better pay — not just for NZNO members, but the wider health sector. If NZNO members lead the way — many others will follow.
It is not a horrible deal — unless you’re paid less than the living wage
The offer for the NZNO DHB MECA is not a horrible deal. There are no pay cuts, no loss of penal rates and no loss of entitlements. This deal is good in the light of the terrible negotiations of the last few year across the health sector. No wonder it is being seen with rose tinted glasses by those entrenched in recent histories. But the deal seems to increase divisions between lower paid workers and the highest (i.e. senior pay increases over HCAs/ENs) and leaves many workers below a Living wage. For example — the Living wage for 2018 is $42,867 per annum. As can be seen below, in the latest DHB offer HCA’s on Step 1 and 2 will not achieve this in 2018. It seems to be a deal which leaves some behind and divides members.
Why is the living wage important?
Income is a social determinant of health. It is simple. If you do not get paid enough then this can jeopardise your health and your family’s health. Living Wage NZ describe the Living wage as “the hourly wage a worker needs to pay for the necessities of life and participate as an active citizen in the community”. Achieving pay rates that are at or above the current Living wage of $20.55 or $42,867 per annum is therefore essential for all workers. This should be a bottom line for members when they vote.
Currently this offer forgets these workers. A vote to say No to this current offer is a vote that says that all workers should expect a Living wage.
If enough members demand it — then all workers across the health sector can expect at least a Living wage. Let the DHBs be the start.
Health Sector Workers Network