For the third time in as many months, Hawke's Bay District Health Board's anaesthetic technicians have taken industrial action.

This time, however, it will be 7am tomorrow morning before they return back to work.

The strike is the result of a long running dispute about pay and conditions, and comes on the back of last week's failed negotiations between union; the Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staff (APEX) and the HBDHB.

They have been in talks since July, when the previous contracts expired.

APEX national secretary Dr Deborah Powell said the offer from the DHB represents a "step backwards".

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"... it undermines Hawke's Bay DHB's current position as a leading public employer of Anaesthetic Technicians."

Despite a national workforce crisis in the wider AT profession in New Zealand, Dr Powell said, until recent times, the HBDHB had been able to avoid these problems by having a "committed team of anaesthetic technicians who are employed on superior terms and conditions".

"It's fair to say that staff retention problems are likely to arise under the DHB's proposed deal and, if we let that happen, then the residents of Hawke's Bay will suffer the consequences with a weakened surgical service and further delays to their elective surgeries," she said.

"Our members are striking to prevent this."

Twenty of 21 anaesthetic technicians at Hawke's Bay DHB are members of the union.

A HDHB spokeswoman said, as of 4pm yesterday , four life preserving surgeries went ahead.

Ten local anaesthetic surgeries went ahead yesterday, as planned, she said, as those surgeries don't require an anaesthetic technician to be present.

It is understood across the strike period, 48 elective surgeries, that require a general anaesthetic, are being put on standby and postponed if necessary - 10 more than was previously anticipated.

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"Anaesthetic technicians are an integral part of operating theatre teams and any operation requiring a general anaesthetic must have a technician present," a spokesperson earlier said.