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PSA southern region organiser Julie Morton said training and development was approved only in very limited circumstances.
The PSA this week announced national strike action involving nearly 12,000 New Zealand health staff, nearly 1000 of who are in the South.
The action affects a wide range of workers, including physiotherapists, dietitians, social workers, various technicians, mental health and public health nurses, and administration staff.
Staff will work to rule from August 25 to September 10, observe an overtime ban next month, and undertake two short strikes next month, in the biggest health industry industrial action taken in a decade.
Workers have been offered a 0.7% pay increase, and the union has cited training and development issues which are particularly acute in the South.
''On a local level, I've never seen [the workers] more collective,'' Mrs Morton said.
''We had a good response to the [strike action] ballot, in fact very high in Southern compared to some of the other DHBs.
''They're despondent, demoralised, but very collective and very determined.''
Mrs Morton said staff started to approach her in the past year to 18 months complaining about training and development requests being declined.
Recently, it was tightened up still further, and the board approved training and development only if it was contractually mandated.
She cited the example of a speech language therapist expected to treat paediatric dysphagia, which required special training.
That had been declined.
The board's response to the issue was pending.
''What she's saying is 'I'm not safe to work in that environment'.
''For [speech language therapists] it's important because they can choke people.''
There had been disagreement with the board about what constituted mandatory training, and the people making the funding decisions tended to be managers, rather than senior clinicians.
In response, patient services director Lexie O'Shea said the board would discuss the issues with the union, rather than make public comment.
''We feel it is more constructive to reaching positive outcomes to discuss issues raised by the PSA with them directly.''