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



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