The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) has announced that the majority of its union members have voted to strike, rejecting the Government's latest pay offer. As a result, NZNO Spokesperson Cee Payne has confirmed that industrial action will go ahead this Thursday 12 July with a nationwide 24 hour strike starting at 7am and finishing at 7am on Friday 13 July.
"There are potentially over 30,000 NZNO members involved," she said. The majority of members voted against the NZNO's own recommendation that members accept the latest pay offer.
Ms Payne announced the results of a seven day ballot of nearly 30,000 NZNO nurses at a press conference this morning.
"NZNO has achieved historic voter turnout and this demonstrates our member’s passion", she said, "and their commitment to improving the health and well being of patients and nursing and midwifery professions."
“The result of the ballot, while closer than previous outcomes, is that a majority of members have voted to reject the proposed DHB NZNO nursing and midwifery multi-employer collective agreement."
Video: Full Press Conference with Union NZNO
She said their members were having to strike to achieve a better offer that secures additional money into the collective agreement to address outstanding member issues.
In response, New Zealand's Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters said this morning at a press conference that "the Government is naturally very very disappointed."
"That's because we approached the negotiations in a positive way," he said. "The Government doubled the offer from its opening position. In addition to a pay increase, the offer sought to address staffing issues by adding 500 extra nurses, recognise the experience of longer serving nurses by adding two extra steps to their pay scale and by bringing forward pay equity discussions.
"The Government's offer would herald the highest pay increase by far in 14 long years," said Mr Peters.
"From this point, the Government believes there is still time to avert industrial action, he said. "We encourage DHBs and the NZNO to continue with urgent facilitation talks over the next two days. As it stands though, we're on track for strike action on Thursday which will cause disruption to health services nationwide. We are confident that professionalism of our nurses will see them support the urgent needs of DHBs on Thursday. "
"This will be the first time nurses have walked off the job in a generation. That's a sad reflection of years of under funding and neglect by the previous government," said the Acting Prime Minister.
Video: Full Press Conference with Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters Responding to NZNO
"Our nurses are caring and dedicated professionals. Their frustration and anger has built up over many years. This Government, though is committed to working with nurses to address their concerns but we can't fix everything in one pay round."
“Patient safety is paramount should the strike proceed, he said.
All 20 district health boards around the country have made contingency preparations for strike day on Thursday 12 July. This includes agreeing life preserving services and plans with the NZNO to agree staffing levels and care of patients on strike day. Elective clinic appointments and elective surgeries have already been cancelled around the country.