Health workers plan strike over pay

Nearly 1000 Otago and Southland health workers will join others nationwide to take strike action after being offered a 0.7% pay increase.

The 735 Otago and 182 Southland clinical staff (excluding most nurses and doctors) who are members of the Public Service Association (PSA) have voted in favour of taking action including work to rule, an overtime ban and walking off the job for two to three hours at a time, over three weeks starting late this month.

Affected are about 12,000 PSA members nationwide, including mental and public health nurses, physiotherapists, anaesthetic technicians, dental therapists, administrative staff and other occupational groups that voted to take action.

It would be the largest health industry industrial action taken in a decade.

PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff said health workers were making a stand, with an average 87.1% in favour of industrial action.

''An annual pay rise shouldn't start with a decimal point,'' he said.

There was also no movement on other issues such as training and professional development, he said.

''Our members take their duty of care very seriously. It is a huge step for them to even consider taking such strong action.''

Health boards had told the union the Government had indicated there would be even less money on the table next year, Mr Flagstaff said.

''Budget documents say DHBs expect a 17% increase in demand over the 10 years to 2021, but they won't get the funding to match and they're planning to squeeze it out of staff.''

District Health Boards Employment Relations Strategy Group and Hutt and Wairarapa District Health Boards chief executive Graham Dyer said the PSA had not issued notice of strike action yet and mediation was planned for August 14-15 so he hoped the issues would be resolved then.

If it was not, health boards would manage the impact of any action the PSA choose to take to ''absolutely minimise its impact on patients and services''.

The PSA was not recognising the tight fiscal environment health boards were in, he said.

Bargaining for the six collective agreements had been going on for between one and 12 months and the health boards had made ''a number of proposals'' to respond to the issues raised by the PSA.

''The co-ordinated timing of the action is clearly part of some other agenda,'' Mr Dyer said.

''Ultimately it is simply about pay.''

The boards had offered the PSA nursing and allied groups a 1.5% increase for about two years which was the same settlement that had been accepted by medical physicists, medical radiation technologists, clinical psychologists and medical laboratory workers, among others.

Southern District Health Board patient services executive director Lexie O'Shea said the board would follow its usual processes if the strike action went ahead, ''which is to carry out detailed contingency planning to minimise the impact on our services and ensure we communicate with all potentially affected parties''.


Action plan
PSA health workers' proposed action

Work to rule: August 25-September 10

Overtime ban: September 1-10

Two-hour strike: September 2

Three-hour strike: September 10



Upping the ante

Notice of effective industrial action will focus management thinking. To be effective, on-call casuals could decline work during strike action, or not cross picket lines. With goodwill in 'mediation', it may not come to that. ASquare, PSA, 1969/91.

ACC gets fat while the hospital starves

It is a telling indication of Government funding allocation and the DHB's management of hospital resources when essential buildings leak and normally loyal staff threaten to strike. When last year's graduating nurses can find no employment at the hospital at all there will be a hole to fill there too. The man from the board with the huge  long name says the union fails to recognise the tight financial conditions but fails to recognise himself that for lower paid staff living costs are rising much faster than wages. Rising costs are not just the domain of the hospitals operating expenses. Our hospital is broke, and yet the ACC makes a profit of a billon dollars last year. Where is this money going? 

Positively Labour

GW_Scam: Well written! I also hope that past National voters can now see the current Government in a different light. We were told the taxpayer owned asset sale income would be spent on health and education. We now know it has been partly spent on PM "security" and the NZ citizen spy systems instead. They can no longer be trusted. Where is their social conscience for the poor and the poverty-stricken ? They gave income tax reductions to the rich but nothing to the poor. At least Labour have a proven social conscience. Do not vote National! 

Can't have it both ways

I'm sure that councilor/SDHB member Thomson will be keen to either reduce yearly rates increases to be less than the yearly salary increases of local medical staff, or increase medical salaries to be greater than the amount he has increased the rates by.

He can't have it both ways - either it's OK to raise rates and salaries so that people can afford to pay them, or it's not.

Sign of things to come

As our current Government funds things like Hollywood studios (tax cuts), billionaire yacht races, and bailing out their mates at the finance companies, necessities like health and education continue to be under funded.

I am sure the high income earners are happy with their tax cut, but the rest of us struggle to pay bills, and get a pay rise of anything over 1% - if we are lucky.

Think before you vote, this election. 

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