Primary healthcare nurses and administration staff went on strike for 24 hours across the country to ask the Government for equal pay with their District Health Board colleagues.
Local doctors' surgery and general practice staff gathered to protest on the street outside Gate Pa Shopping Centre in Tauranga on Monday.
It is the nurse's second strike this year.
"We're not asking for more – we'd just like to be paid as equals," said primary healthcare nurse Karen Smith.
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation said negotiations have been going on for a year, with employers saying they want to pay more but cannot "because the Government-controlled funding model is broken".
"Currently we're paid 10.6 per cent less than them (their district health board counterparts)," said Smith.
"We're a very valued part of the community in the help and the care and skills that we have to treat people who come into general practice, in primary health care settings."
A Ministry of Health spokesman said in an emailed statement it was not appropriate for the ministry to comment on the wage rates agreed between employees and their employers.
In response to the comments made about the funding model, the spokesman explained primary health organisations (PHOs) were contracted by DHB's and funding was negotiated between the two each year.
The funding provided by the government through these arrangements supports the delivery of primary care services, including wage costs, he said.
"As the responsibility for collective bargaining rests with the employer, discussions with the Ministry would focus on ensuring any impacts of the industrial action can be effectively managed, with minimum disruption to public health services."
The issue was wider than just affecting primary health care nursing, the spokesman said.
"The Ministry acknowledges that nurses employed by organisations in primary care, aged residential care, iwi-based health care services and other community settings are often not paid as much as nurses employed by DHBs.
"In addition, the link between community organisation funding and nurse pay and conditions is not straight forward."
The ability of community organisations to recruit and retain sufficient nurses depends on a multitude of other factors, the spokesman said, including hours, conditions of work, and "immigration rules".
He said the Ministry, DHBs and employers would be working together to better understand non-DHB employed nurses' employment conditions, including salary.
NZNO industrial advisor Chris Wilson said it was "completely unfathomable" to nurses that strike action was needed to receive the acknowledgement and respect fair wages would achieve.
"We've been told repeatedly by various Ministers of Health this isn't the Government's problem but it clearly is.
"They control the funding, and they will face the crisis when PHC nurses and support workers leave the sector for better pay. We know this will happen, and employers say they are already facing serious staff recruitment and retention issues."
A further strike is planned for November 23.
- Additional reporting by Leah Tebbutt
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