Nurses have signed on to a new pay agreement, bringing nearly a year of negotiations, including strike action, to an end.

But they've also issued a warning that other areas of the health sector still need to change.

The new offer is the fifth from DHBs, and was agreed after the 30,000 New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) members voted by online ballot.

Industrial Services manager Cee Payne said there was a high turnout, and a "significant majority" was in favour.


"The campaign for safe staffing and better pay that continued through the nationwide Rallies for Health, helped to bring public attention to the unacceptable workloads and working conditions of the public health sector nursing workforce.

"This helped to secure an acceptable MECA [Multi-Employer Collective Agreement]."

The union said it would now urgently work with district health boards (DHBs) to get the agreement implemented.

"Immediate attention to improving safe staffing with complete implementation of CCDM [Care Capacity Demand Management] by 2021 will address longstanding issues of workload and working conditions, which have negatively affected the quality of care nurses provide and the morale of nursing teams," Payne said.

"The ability to realise pay equity for public sector nurses and midwives by December 2019 will address the historic undervaluing of work in a profession where the majority of employees are women, laying down a foundation for a much safe and valued career in nursing."

However, there was a warning that the issue didn't stop with nurses getting their agreement signed.

NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku said other health sectors now needed their issues addressed.

"We have much more work to do from here to secure decent pay, safe staffing and improved working conditions for nurses employed by Maori and iwi providers, those in primary health care, aged care, and private hospitals.


"Nurses working in these sectors equally deserve improved staffing, pay, and working conditions. Just like their DHB colleagues.

"We have a lot further to go for the profession of nursing."

Wellington Hospital registered nurse Mel Anderson said the new agreement was a relief.

"I'm hoping that I don't have to spend two hours finding staff for the next shift. I'm hoping that I can spend 20 minutes with a patient.

"That I can help educate families so they don't come back into the hospital.

"The staffing is the most important thing. The money is good, I need money to eat and have petrol to get into work, but staffing is the most important so that I can do the job I love to do."

DHB spokesperson Jim Green said they welcomed the yes vote, and now needed to rebuild trust.

"There's a lot of work to be done and we're already under way.

"The Care Capacity Demand Management groups looking at safe staffing levels include NZNO members, and are part of our immediate response with the $38m provided by the Government for recruitment.

"The joint work on the CCDM is the first part – if that work identifies more staff are needed DHBs will also recruit them as well."

Green said the new agreement was about valuing nurses.

"There are three pay increases of 3 per cent, two of which take effect immediately.

"There's a third increase next year, as well as two new steps at the top of the nurses and midwives scale that specifically recognise the skill and experience of this group.

"For DHBs, it's about giving the NZNO and its members confidence we will deliver on commitments about staffing and resourcing."

Thousands of nurses went on strike across the country last month, after successive pay negotiations failed.

It was the first nurses strike in New Zealand for nearly 30 years.

Safe staffing levels were a key issue, with nurses saying they were forced to sometimes run from patient to patient because staffing was so low.

Nurses also wanted a pay increase, saying remuneration has been stagnant for almost a decade.

Last week the Government attempted to address the safe staffing issue, signing an accord at Parliament to make safe staffing agreements binding.