Anaesthetic technicians employed at Bowen and Wakefield Hospitals in Wellington and Hawkes Bay's Royston Hospital are threatening a 24-hour strike on Tuesday July 27 unless an agreement is reached through mediation.
Technicians have been in bargaining since May with hospital owner Evolution Healthcare, but talks have broken down over pay amid a growing workforce shortage, said the Allied Scientific and Technical Union (Apex).
The healthcare company has offered workers 2 per cent increases per year for two years, while Apex is seeking 5 per cent per year they said.
The union said the strike will result in nearly all surgery that requires a general anaesthetic being cancelled on Tuesday July 27.
Apex advocate Luke Coxon said New Zealand had an acute shortage of anaesthetic technicians, with surgeries now being routinely cancelled due to workforce shortages.
"Evolution Healthcare is chronically understaffed and struggling to recruit anaesthetic technicians. Our members are working non-stop, and gaps are being filled by locum agencies, whom the company has no qualms paying more than double what they pay their own staff."
Coxon said Evolution Healthcare is expanding, therefore can afford a pay rise.
"They must realise they need to do so to ensure they have the anaesthetic technicians to staff their hospitals and provide surgeries."
However, the company believes their offer is fair.
"The pay rates for Anaesthetic Technicians at our hospitals, where comparable, are higher than those at the DHBs. Apex recently agreed pay increases of around 1.5 per cent for Anaesthetic Technicians in DHBs, our last offer was for increase of 2 per cent and 2 per cent - their claim is 5 per cent and 5 per cent."
A spokesperson said in the meantime, they are continuing with contingency planning and working through arrangements to ensure the safety of all those in their care.
They said that could involve deferring some elective procedures and they would work with those affected to minimise disruption and reschedule as soon as possible.
They regretted any inconvenience but said the safety of their patients and staff was paramount, the healthcare company said.