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In early August, Public Service Association delegates from Oamaru Hospital, Clutha Health First and Dunstan Hospital met with the Southern DHB to discuss the disparity in pay between Allied Health and clerical staff and those employed by the health board.
The pay gap had not closed in the past year, as affected staff in rural hospitals were not included in the latest funding agreement with the Ministry of Health.
Waitaki District Health Services, the Waitaki District Council-controlled company that owns and operates the hospital, is funded and contracted by the health board to provide services.
Public Service Association organiser Jen Wilson said ministry funding for the health board resulted in "substantial wage increases", but rural hospitals were not funded to match.
As a result, a petition pushing for equal pay, and directed at the ministry, is being circulated at rural hospitals, including Oamaru Hospital.
Mrs Wilson, who attended the meeting with the health board, said a settlement for Allied Health staff in Oamaru had been reached under the Multi Employment Collective Agreement (MECA), but was for less than the desired rate.
"We settled for less than the DHB MECA, but it's for a very short term and we are going back to bargaining very soon."
Bargaining was still in progress for clerical staff, she said.
"We have been active in trying to put pressure on the DHB because they are the ones who fund our hospitals directly. That's why we started the petition to the ministry. We've said to the ministry you need to come up with the money to fund these pay rates.
"It's very hard to understand what the justification for the ministry not funding it is, because yes [rural hospitals] are not owned by the DHBs, but they provided DHB services. They are contracted with the DHB. We don't accept there's a legitimate distinction."
The PSA has 27 members in Oamaru.
An Oamaru PSA delegate, who did not want to be named, was approached for comment by the Otago Daily Times, but was declined the opportunity by Oamaru Hospital management.
Mrs Wilson said she was confused by the Oamaru Hospital's stance, which she said was "frustrating".
"I am perplexed because our complaint is not with the Waitaki services as much as the ministry."
Waitaki District Health Services chief executive Ruth Kibble said she was unable to comment on the bargaining negotiations directly.
"We are currently working closely with SDHB to finalise our funding agreement for the forthcoming year. Until this funding contract is confirmed, we are unable to provide any further details."