Well as expected, nurses said no to the paltry offer of 2%. Good on them.

You can forgive their expectations being understandably higher with a new, more sympathetic Labour government. No such luck.

They're getting ready for a week of national action starting April 9. There'll be a ballot on when and how that goes ahead.

Nurses being underfunded, underpaid and overworked is not new of course. This has been going on for a decade or more. Nurses cite increased work loads, increased patient acuity, stress, fatigue and lack of job satisfaction. Add to that high staff turnover and low morale, inadequate levels of staffing, unhealthy shift rostering and under-valuation of nurses' work, and you have quite a disturbing - and lengthy - list.

Advertisement

It can't have been a surprise to the new government that this would be an issue. Despite being vocal in opposition while the National government clearly didn't do enough for nurses, I note the Labour government hasn't really come in to throw money at them either.

What's unfortunate is the timing of this pay dispute: leaving it this long means we are now looking down the barrel of strike action just as we head into cooler weather and a season of traditionally poorer health.

Nurses don't want to strike, of course, they haven't taken strike action in decades.

They're not interested in crippling the health system or putting lives at risk. In fact, the stress and pressure of that is one of the many reasons they don't strike. The DHBs have played on this for years. They know, just like we do, that they're a caring profession and it's harder for nurses to down tools. It's not in their DNA, so you can imagine the depth of their despair to get to this point.

But what choice do they have? For many, their mental health is suffering, they're exhausted, burnt out and understandably over it.

Remunerating them properly, though a good place to start, is not the only fix though.

There is a culture that needs addressing, as well as a good hard look at the way we regard and treat our nurses. Their plight and voices, and there's plenty of them, need to be heard, or at least feel like they've been heard: not just butted aside and batted around like a political football.

And it's not just nurses either, it's midwives and care assistants too. We don't value our carers enough in this country. They deserve so much better and so much more. Money manages to get filtered off in other directions: tertiary education, housing, the super fund, and yet the people who'll be at your side, your parents' side, your child's side in times of great distress don't get more than a pathetic 2%.

Advertisement

Irrespective of politics, this is a people issue. I'm with the nurses.