About 30,000 nurses working for New Zealand’s health authority will get a pay increase after the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) made an interim order to fix pay equity rates.
Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand has already started planning to process the new pay rates, which it offered last year but has been held up by legal proceedings brought by the country’s nursing unions.
It will see most nurses get a 14 per cent increase in their pay, Te Whatu Ora Health New Zealand chief executive Fepulea’i Margie Apa said. The health authority will also give out a lump sum payment.
“In the first quarter next year our nurses will be on par dollar for dollar with their Australian counterparts with the biggest increases where there is the biggest undervaluation,” Margie Apa said.
“What really pleases me is that we’re addressing a legitimate claim from a key part of the health workforce that has been undervalued for too long.”
The Government welcomed the ERA’s order, with Minister of Health Andrew Little reiterating the Government’s commitment to improving nurses’ pay.
“This is a fantastic outcome. Te Whatu Ora had agreed to pay these rates last year after an agreement in principle with the nursing unions, but it was put on hold when the unions initiated a legal challenge,” Margie Apa said.
“When it became apparent the legal challenge would be long and complex, we decided to look for ways we could apply the pay equity rates we’d already agreed. That was what we asked the ERA.”
The country’s nursing unions supported Te Whatu Ora’s application for the interim order on Monday. Margie Apa said she was pleased to have their support and of the ERA’s “prompt” decision.
Health minister Andrew Little said, “this Government is committed to improving nurses’ pay. We have already increased registered nurses’ wages by about 20 per cent.
“We are also committed to pay equity for nurses. That is why we amended the Equal Pay Act so this could be achieved,” he said.
Unions took their fight for pay equity to court, specifically concerning back pay they felt was owed to their members.
In May, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation confirmed its members had voted to refer the DHB Nursing Pay Equity settlement - worth about $520 million per annum to the health payroll - to the ERA.
Little said, “the pay equity process is complex and technical, and that is why it often takes time to get to the point of agreement. It is clear that the ongoing litigation will take a long time to resolve.
“I continue to urge the parties involved to seek to resolve issues by agreement as they arise.”
Te Whatu Ora said it would be “pulling out all stops” and putting more staff on to update the over 20 different payroll systems it deals with.
“We are working with the Government on the next steps to make funds available,” Margie Apa said.
Little said, “this means nurses will get a significant pay rise in their pockets in the new year.”