Significant pay claim for DHB nurse equity

A pay equity claim has been lodged on behalf of 27,000 district health board nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants in potentially the most significant equal pay case to date.

The claim was lodged by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation during collective bargaining with DHBs.

If successful, the nurses' claim is likely to set a precedent for nurses in non-DHB workplaces, such as the aged care sector.

The nurses' union was reluctant to comment on the wider implications of the move yesterday.

It is one of a raft of claims from groups of workers following the negotiated pay increase for caregivers and support workers that took effect this week.

Some groups are still using the courts because Parliament is yet to pass legislation establishing a national system of gender equity pay negotiation.

The nurses' claim is using a process agreed by the State Services Commission for public sector workers. It uses the same principles as the legislation which is working its way through Parliament. Other groups are still using the court, such as a claim lodged yesterday in the Employment Relations Authority on behalf of part-time teachers.

In a written statement, NZNO industrial service manager Cee Payne said the union believed nurses were underpaid because it was traditionally a female-dominated job.

More than a decade ago, nurses negotiated a significant pay rise, but that was not a pay equity settlement, Ms Payne said.

At that time, the union compared the pay of nurses with that of teachers and police, and found ``large pay differences''.

``While the 2004 DHB multi-employer collective agreement fair pay settlement went some way to closing those differences it was not a pay equity settlement,'' Ms Payne said.

``We need to look more broadly than just police and secondary school teachers as to what the comparators should be - firstly within health, and then more widely.

``There won't be a single perfect comparator but we will undertake further research across a range of occupational groups,'' Ms Payne said.

Ms Payne said the State Services Commission process was new and ``untested''.

The claim would not hold up collective agreement bargaining, as it would be negotiated separately, she said.


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