Bad weather fails to dampen determination of striking nurses

Frustrated Dunedin nurses walked off their jobs to strike yesterday after an overwhelming number declined a pay rise of less than 3%.

The primary health care and Plunket nurse strike took place across the country yesterday as thousands of nurses demanded pay parity with those who worked for Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand (HNZ).

In Dunedin, they numbered about 30, all braving the bad weather and holding signs and purple flags.

They protested at the intersection of Queens Gardens and Cumberland St from 10am to 2pm.

Cars tooted in support for the workers, including a Fire and Emergency New Zealand fire appliance which sounded its siren and honked its horn as it passed by.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation organiser Gail Arthur said negotiations for pay parity had stalled after the latest offer of a 2.78% increase.

The difference in pay between primary health care nurses and HNZ nurses was about 10-20%.

In response to the offer, 92% of members voted to strike.

Plunket nurses were offered about 3% and 89% of members voted to strike.

Primary health care nurses and Plunket nurses cared for people in the community and were an essential part of the healthcare system, she said.

Practice nurse Lynn Sawyer had been a nurse for about 37 years and had worked throughout the industry.

Plunket nurses Candice Adam (left) and Kelly Morrissey were among about 30 other nurses striking...
Plunket nurses Candice Adam (left) and Kelly Morrissey were among about 30 other nurses striking in Dunedin yesterday for pay parity. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
She said it never felt like primary health care nurses were more undervalued than now.

Undervaluing primary health care nurses hurt everybody, as hospitals would not be able to keep up without them.

"We’re meant to prevent people going into hospital."

The offer of 2.78% was frustrating.

"None of us were very happy with that."

Clinical nurse consultant Catherine Meek said all nurses had the same qualifications and did the same training, so they were all worthy of the same pay.

She was reaching the end of her career, but was protesting because she knew how important it was to pay young nurses fairly.

In Queenstown, 15 nurses protested by the Frankton roundabout for about an hour in steady rain.

Queenstown Medical Centre nurse team leader Sarah Dennis said the response from motorists was "really encouraging".

"There was lots of tooting, waving out of windows and thumbs-ups.

"Someone pulled over and gave us $100 and said ‘go buy yourselves a coffee after this’."