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During an interview last week, union advocate Mike Hanifin said Dunedin and Oamaru Presbyterian Support rest-home workers in laundry, kitchen and housekeeping roles voted to take industrial action. He believed other workers in Otago may also have decided to take industrial action.
He thought talks over a pay increase with Otago Presbyterian Support Enliven, also known as Presbyterian Support Otago (PSO), had started to falter.
On Wednesday, he said it had become obvious to those in the union there had been a communication breakdown with PSO.
PSO genuinely believed negotiations were ongoing, Mr Hanifin said, but Care was under the strong impression negotiations were at an end.
"We were pretty surprised. We had confirmed with them we were leaving the talks."
PSO spokesman Mark Long said from his organisation’s point of view the negotiations were always ongoing.
"Not much has changed from our perspective."
What union workers wanted was a 9% pay increase.
From August 24, the PSO had raised its pay offer from 1.8% to 2.25%, Mr Hanifin said, but what staff wanted was a pay increase to almost match a July deal caregivers, activities staff and physio assistants were given.
Using the example of someone on $16.70 per hour, the PSO’s initial deal on the table was an increase of 30c an hour, he said.
The new offer was an increase of 37c an hour.
Pay brackets for staff were as follows: cooks ranged from $16.30 to $16.80 an hour and service workers ranged from $15.32 to $16.29, he said.
Mr Hanifin expected the next meeting over pay to be held on October 3.
He said feedback from union members about the talks continuing was positive.
There was hope the pay offer would have grown, Mr Hanifin said, given the current offer was a "significant distance" away from what workers wanted.