Mammographers take stand on pay

Striking southern breast cancer screening mammographers say they would far prefer to be at work today but their employer left them with no choice.

"We care for our patients, we don’t want to disrupt services for these women," a striking union member who asked not to be named said.

"But they have put us in this position and we have to take a stand on the matter."

Today about 40 South Island mammographers who are members of the Apex union and who are employed by Pacific Radiology, are on strike for 24 hours.

Apex senior advocate Luke Coxon said that, on average, a mammographer who worked at Pacific Radiology Group (PRG) was paid up to 14% less than a DHB-employed mammographer.

"Apex has been bargaining with PRG for five months and despite the glaring pay gap, they have yet to make an offer on pay.

"Bargaining was due to resume on last week, but PRG cancelled at the last minute and said they cannot return to the bargaining table for at least another three months . . . the refusal of PRG to pay labour market rates is unconscionable."

Pacific Radiology is contracted to provide South Island screening services for Breast Screen Aotearoa.

Earlier this year, its southern services were audited after an issue was discovered with a specific radiologist who was misreading images and several women had to be rapidly re-screened.

"We have had multiple disruptions with Covid and that audit and we have gone above and beyond to help make up and work around those issues," the mammographer said.

"Unfortunately, that [goodwill] has not been reciprocated by Pacific Radiology. We are [a] caring and sympathetic bunch so it is difficult for us to do something like this, and added to that we have had pressure from the employers regarding the strike."

Eleven mammographers from Dunedin will join colleagues in Invercargill, Nelson, Timaru and Christchurch in going on strike today.

Mr Coxon said that the strike had attended mediation talks last week but PRG continued to refuse to bargain on pay rates.

"No future dates for bargaining are planned and further industrial action in the new year now seems inevitable."

PRG chief human relations officer Amy Wilson said that there would be no impact to patient appointments as a result of the Apex Mammographer strike.

"We remain committed to bargaining with Apex in good faith,'' she said.

"We have asked Apex to meet with us in the new year to discuss pay once we have completed our analysis on our proposed remuneration increases for the coming year.'' 

 - mike.houlahan@odt.co.nz

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