Around 3500 hospital services workers around the country will receive up to a 40 per cent pay rise in the next three years.
Trade union E Tū's national hospital co-ordinator Sam Jones said negotiations for a new multi-employer agreement (MECA) for 2000 DHB employees have been settled. Similar agreements, with the same rates, for contractors are expected to be voted on within the next few weeks.
"This is a fantastic outcome for members who have struggled with costs rising faster than their low wages," said Jones.
"It's a major investment by the DHBs and the Government in the lowest paid workers in our public hospitals and helps deliver on the Government's promise to lift the standard of those at the bottom."
For Auckland District Health Board cleaner Lena Hiku the news is life-changing.
The mother-of-two has worked six to seven days every week for the last 19 years, in order to put food on the table for her children, pay a mortgage and keep on top of her "ever growing" weekly bills.
With the new multi-employer agreement (MECA) under way, the level 3 qualified cleaner would see a pay jump from $19.29 an hour to $25.58 by March 2021.
"No longer are we talking an increase in cents but in dollars, which would be life-changing for me. It would mean I'd finally be able to have my weekends free to spend time with my family and go to church on Sundays," Hiku said.
Hiku said she and her husband had worked shift work for nearly two decades which meant when her children were at school he would do the drop-offs and she would be the pick-ups.
"We didn't see eye to eye often, most weekends when he was at home I was at work. Honestly, I haven't had a family life so this pay rise would be huge - even though my children have grown up and now have jobs of their own."
Minister David Clark said he was pleased the workers, who were doing valuable work in our hospitals, were benefiting from he agreement.
"Labour campaigned on lifting wages for lower paid workers, including giving decent pay increases to those on the minimum wage."
Clark said the workers would also be better rewarded for upskilling under the new pay scale over the next three years.
"I expect fairer pay will have a positive effect on this workforce and benefit the sector," Clark said.
Jones said the DHBs were committed to providing the training workers need to gain qualifications with higher wage rates which was great news.
"These jobs are an important entry point into the health service and the promotion of training will enable some to progress in the public health sector making the settlement a real win/win."
All services workers could advance their career by gaining a level 2 and level 3 NZQA qualification which involved a book work assessment and on-the-job training.
For example, with a level 3 qualification a cleaner could be assessed on skills such as high-level infection control.
He said it was a fantastic outcome for those who had struggled with costs rising faster than their low wages.
"It'll be easier for people to pay the bills and feed their families properly so they're healthier and happier."
Auckland DHB CEO Ailsa Claire, speaking on behalf of all DHBs, said the agreement was a "really powerful partnership" between them and E Tū.
"It is a really good example of working together to support the wellbeing of staff."
Once the agreement was in place employees would have the opportunity to upskill during work hours, and move on to a living wage.
"DHBs are usually the largest employers in their communities, in Auckland it is the largest, so [this agreement] has a big impact.
"The idea is that people in low paid roles have pathways into careers, and by doing so make a significant contribution to the community."