The first words that escaped Maria Costelloe's lips when we met were, "I don't want to be here".
That is, at industrial action involving about 50 primary health care nurses on Cameron Rd yesterday
, striking for pay parity with their peers at Tauranga and Whakatāne hospitals.
It is part of a national strike action against all District Health Boards.
Costelloe said she just wanted to be at work, caring for her patients, and paid fairly for it.
"It just doesn't make sense that nurses in a different area are paid differently with the same experience," the Doctors Tauranga nurse team leader said.
The strike comes more than a year after failed negotiations between primary healthcare nurses and the Government. Nurses say they are paid 10.6 per cent less than their Bay of Plenty District Health Board colleagues but hold the same qualifications, skills and experience.
These nurses are covered by the primary healthcare multi-employer collective agreement.
DHB nurses won a pay rise in 2018 after industrial action, but primary health care nurses - those at GPs and some emergency clinics - say they're still being paid about $7650 less per year.
DHB nurses can be paid up to $77,300. Salaries in primary care top out at about $69,700, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation confirmed.
Costelloe said primary health care nurses were the ambulance at the top of the cliff.
"We're the measles vaccinators, we're the Covid swabbers, we're the ones who stop people ending up in the hospital.
"I completely honour and value the work of hospital nurses but I feel in this public arena... with all the things we do, we are equally valuable as those who work in the hospitals. So why do different places pay registered nurses differently?"
The last few months had been difficult, trying to juggle everyday tasks, while also putting herself on the line and swabbing for Covid-19, she said.
But she believed that showed the importance of the primary health care nurse.
"Please just give us some fairness, give us some equity, give us some acknowledgement of what we do every day."
New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) industrial adviser Chris Wilson said this had never happened in the primary health care workplaces and was a clear indication of the frustration workers feel after months of fruitless negotiations.
"This is completely unjust and undervalues the amazing work these nurses do in providing expert care in the community."
"Employers have been very clear they also want pay parity with DHBs so they can keep their staff and continue delivery of a quality primary health care service. However, their funding from Government is completely inadequate."
When asked on Wednesday in a Covid-19 briefing about the strike, Minister of Health Chris Hipkins said he was not going to get involved in industrial negotiations.
"Ultimately they are employed by private practices, the Government is not their employer and so there are a variety of factors that those employers take into account in their negotiations.
"In general, the Government supports pay parity. Equal pay for equal work, that's the basic premise that we do support. Having said that in primary care, we are not the employer of those nurses."