Progress in nurses' dispute as union recommends offer

Health Minister David Clark.
Health Minister David Clark.
An end to the long-running nurses' pay dispute may be in sight.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation yesterday recommended members accept a new proposal from district health boards.

Nurses, midwives and other health professionals have spent several months in pay talks with DHBs, and a fortnight ago union members stopped work for 24 hours - only the second national nurses strike.

The proposal, if accepted, would create a new framework to monitor nursing staff levels at DHBs. Safe staffing levels at hospitals has been a core NZNO complaint.

In addition, progression for nurses and midwives from the second-top to the top pay rank has been brought forward by three months, to bring it into force before the expiry of the collective agreement.

NZNO members will now vote - from July 31 to August 6 - on the proposed settlement.

''We are recommending the offer because it retains previously achieved benefits and addresses the ongoing member priorities of greater need for clarity and commitment to safe staffing and also the issue of equity and fairness across the steps,'' NZNO spokeswoman Glenda Alexander said.

''We have secured clearer monitoring and reporting mechanisms in relation to an immediate additional nursing staff
funding allocation and, enforceable mechanisms for progress on care capacity and demand management (CCDM).''

If accepted, the agreement would result in each DHB establishing a CCDM council and issuing bi-monthly updates about the status of the nursing workforce.

''Bi-monthly updates about safe staffing and the implementation of CCDM will ensure transparency for the nursing and midwifery teams,'' Ms Alexander said.

''Nurses will be able to monitor CCDM progress and safe staffing levels.''

Health Minister David Clark was pleased at the potential breakthrough.

''These negotiations have been long and testing,'' Dr Clark said.

''I am pleased both parties have reached an agreement on an offer to put to NZNO members.''

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