Peters to striking nurses: Offer as good as it gets

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters message to striking nurses is that the offer on the table is a "serious" one but it is as good as it will get.

"We have made a serious offer to the nurses with respect to both funding, to career advancement and also help with respect to 500 extra nurses. That's our offer and that's the maximum we can afford."

He did not believe patient safety had been endangered during the strike.

"The nurses said they would ensure patient safety wasn't imperilled and we expect them to keep their word and I understand that is what happened today, that there has been no danger of that sort."

Winston Peters. Photo NZ Herald
Winston Peters. Photo NZ Herald
National Party health spokesman Michael Woodhouse said Peters' repeated public statements that there was no more money was "kicking the hornet's nest".

"To do that through the media is a pretty inflammatory response when the nurses are saying 'let's continue to talk'."

He said it was generous offer, but rejected the Government's claims that it was because of the need to make up for lower increases under National's nine years in power.

He said those were in different times and the pay increases nurses had received were comfortably above the rate of inflation.

"A negotiation by its nature is a two-way process. Nobody can be forced into settling against their will. If they were unhappy with them there were options they could have taken.

"The bigger issue is that massive expectations were set by a Labour Party which is now in Government and is not prepared to deliver on them."

Revenue Minister Michael Woodhouse said trusts would have to file annual returns in future. Photo...
Michael Woodhouse. Photo: NZ Herald/file
Woodhouse said the lack of serious incidents was a testament to the organisation of the DHBs and the commitment nurses had made to ensure life-preserving care was still available.

"But it is obviously a massive disruption to those who had been expecting treatment or clinical appointment and they have been cancelled. So hopefully this will be the first day and the last."

Peters dismissed as irrelevant the argument that the government could afford $2.3 billion to replace the Royal NZ Air Force Orions with four P8A Poseidons, a measure announced this week.

Peters said it was "not an either–or situation".

"If we don't make that investment in our defence, in our security, our protection of our maritime assets, our fishing assets and a whole lot of other things to do with our future, then we'll have no money for anybody including the nurses.

"They are part of a holistic picture of money that has to be spent and we'd clearly like more but we haven't got it."

Peters said the nurses should be realistic about what could be done in the short term.

"We are not unsympathetic to the nurses' plight and to their concerns but again we have to be realistic.

"All we are saying is give us a chance and we will help you but we can't do it all in the space of one Budget."

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