The Northland District Health Board is accusing a union of holding Northlanders to ransom by planning more strikes by anaesthetic technicians in the coming weeks.
The Allied Scientific and Technical Union (APEX) has given notice to the Northland District Health Board (NDHB) of a 24-hour strike on October 31 and another to last two days starting at 7am on November 7.
APEX is representing 15 anaesthetic technicians employed by Northland DHB who are unhappy over pay and working conditions. When they initially went on strike on October 3, 24 elective surgeries had to be postponed and the Northland DHB lost eight hours of deferrable acute operating time.
NDHB was not in a position to say how many elective surgeries would have to be rescheduled if the planned strikes went ahead. During the strike days, public hospitals will continue to provide emergency and life preserving surgeries as part of an agreement with the APEX.
Anaesthetic technicians in Hawke's Bay had their second 24-hour strike on Wednesday this week and those in Invercargill followed suit on Thursday.
"In each DHB the anaesthetic technicians expect to bargain their own local issues in their own separate collective agreements. The strikes are now escalating because the DHBs have been unable or unwilling to sit down and bargain with us," APEX national secretary Dr Deborah Powell said.
She said DHBs were turning up with the same pre-determined settlement offers that failed to address local issues or reflected previous discussions.
"Bargaining inevitably breaks down when the DHBs refuse to budge, citing the need for ministry authorisation. If the DHBs maintain this approach, the strikes will inevitably continue."
But NDHB acting chief executive Jeanette Wedding said an offer would be tabled to the anaesthetic technicians when APEX stopped issuing strike notices.
She said the Public Service Association recently settled bargaining with a good offer from the DHBs for all professionals, including anaesthetic technicians.
"Despite being provided with repeated offers including the same pay and conditions offered to PSA anaesthetic technicians, the APEX Union is choosing to organise strikes.
"At the moment this union appears to continue to want to hold the people of Northland to ransom as part of its wider ambitions. Not giving in to unacceptable union demands does not mean the DHB is being unfair, and serving strike notices will not settle this bargaining.
"We have made four offers to this union in the last three weeks, the union appears to want to blame everyone except itself for this situation," Wedding said.