Talks to settle dispute reconvene

Chris Fleming
Chris Fleming
The nurses’ union and district health boards  resume mediation talks today  on  their employment dispute.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation members last week rejected an offer from DHBs aimed at ending a long-running wrangle over pay and working conditions.

The NZNO then formally lodged notification of strike action, in which nurses, midwives and assorted health professionals covered by the multi-employer collective agreement were scheduled to walk off the job for 24 hours on July 5.

A second day of industrial action by NZNO members is planned for July 12.

The union surveyed members late last week to gauge their priorities for mediation talks.

Better and more timely remuneration, an adequate response to immediate staffing shortages and a set start date for pay equity were the main issues highlighted.

The NZNO said those issues had been put to the DHB negotiating team, and it would await its response today.

Nursing is considered an essential service and legally contingency plans must be put in place to ensure continuity of life-preserving services during any industrial action. If the strike goes ahead, it will be only the second time nurses nationally have walked off the job.

NZNO spokeswoman Lesley Harry said union staff and DHBs would continue to work together to prepare contingency plans if strike action was not averted.

The Southern DHB’s strike contingency plans will involve Dunedin and Southland Hospitals providing essential and urgent services, including emergency departments, acute surgery, intensive care, cancer treatments, maternity services, renal dialysis, patient retrievals and acute wards at reduced capacity.

Lakes District Hospital’s emergency department will also remain open.

Many rural hospitals, general practices and other health services will operate as normal as staff are not covered by the collective agreement.

"Along with the other DHBs, we remain committed to negotiating in good faith with NZNO to find a resolution that works for all parties," SDHB chief executive Chris Fleming said.

"We appreciate everyone’s patience and understanding at this time and we will do our best to communicate to patients and their whanau and families in as timely a manner as we can."

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