Staff at Hawke's Bay District Health Board are outraged following a report showing its chief executive Dr Kevin Snee received a 16 per cent pay rise last year - but the board chairman says the report is wrong.
The discontent follows a State Services Commission report on remuneration bands for district health board (DHB) chief executives.
Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell highlighted the pay rise last week and yesterday called it hypocritical.
Many people had been told to make do with a 0.6 per cent or 0.7 per cent pay rise for the next year, an employee, who didn't want to be named, said.
"Staff were wild," he said, and ward and service staff felt they were not valued. "People were saying 'why should we do any work?'," the employee said.
The State Services Commission report showed most DHB chief executives received pay rises in the 2013/14 financial year, from $10,000 to $180,000.
Mr Powell said there was a competitive international market for chief executives "and it is vital that we are able to attract and retain high-quality people".
"The exact same argument applies to many health service staff, yet the DHBs have treated their bids for very modest pay increases with contempt."
Hawke's Bay District Health Board chairman Kevin Atkinson said Dr Snee's salary package included a performance component that was paid inconsistently.
For the 2012/13 year only one performance pay was made but in 2013/14 there were two, leaving the false impression of a 16 per cent pay rise.
"In the previous year we received enquiries asking why Dr Snee had taken a pay cut, but when we explained that the reason related to the timing of at risk payments, it was not reported," Mr Atkinson said.
"In real terms Dr Snee's salary rise was only 2 per cent.
"Mr Powell's highly misleading statement reflects, in reality, simply an opening salvo in the imminent negotiations with DHBs about senior doctors' pay," Mr Atkinson said.
The unnamed employee said a 2 per cent rise was easier to swallow but Mr Powell said it was "well in excess" of DHB chief executives' policy statement - that all DHB staff should receive increases more than 0.7 per cent.
"If they apply that principle to the rest of the workforce they should apply it to themselves.
"The largest group of chief executives got pay increases between $10,000 and $30,000 - 2.1 and 5.6 per cent - and they are not prepared to pay those sort of pay increases to their own staff."
Mr Atkinson said he was very comfortable with Dr Snee's increase and work performance.
Doctors did not have an at-risk component in their pay "and surgeons have the opportunity to earn larger amounts of money than the award, because of the ability to do ACC work in the public sector", Mr Atkinson said.
CEO pay was benchmarked through the State Services Commission and most chief executives did not get 100 per cent of their at-risk pay "and some get none".
Negotiations with other DHB employees included aspects such as hours of work and conditions. Dr Snee was also chair of the national chief executives group, an unpaid role.
"You won't get doctors doing that for nothing."