An experienced nurse says she fears for the future of the profession, as thousands of colleagues prepare to go on strike tomorrow.
Negotiations between the union, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO), and district health boards (DHBs) have stalled after nurses rejected the latest offer yesterday.
Cheryl Hammond, a nurse of 43 years, works in the Bay of Plenty. But she said she feared for the future of her profession.
"I want to make sure that anybody that comes is going to do their 43 years in nursing.
"But I can't see that happening because the people that are coming in at the moment aren't staying, because of the pressures, the workload, because of the shift work.
"They're tired, they're exhausted."
She said over the past six years in her job, her workload had doubled, as more demand was put on their services.
But over the same period, she said they had not recruited additional staff. Pay had never been adequate, she said.
"I worry about the new grads.
"They come in with $30,000-$40,000 debt, and only earn just between $50,000 and $60,000 when they start. And then they've got debts and families to support."
She will be involved in tomorrow's strike.
"It's one thing I really do not want to do, but if it's the only way we're going to get an improvement, it's the only thing we can do."
Essential services will be available
The DHBs said they were disappointed with the outcome of the ballot, but were assuring the public essential services would still be available on the day.
The discussions have been taking place for a number of months, and industrial action was initially settled on in mid-May.
That led to a revised offer from the DHBs, which offered a down payment of $4000 to all staff, ahead of their pay equity claim to be settled later on this year.
"We had thought that the improved offer that we gave, and the additional money around pay equity would enable a settlement to be reached, but that's proven to be not the case," said DHB spokesman, Jim Green.
The union said the pay equity claim was just a lump sum, and would not address the longer term problems within the sector.
DHBs urged to go back to drawing board
The union said the new offer from the district health boards was substantially the same as it was previously.
One union member - a senior nurse at Canterbury DHB who wanted to remain anonymous - said the DHBs needed to re-evaluate.
"They need to find the funds to come up with a fair and decent offer. The Government and DHBs need to work together for that.
"Only then can we start actually retaining staff, and attracting staff."
She said the poor pay and poor working conditions were having an impact.
"We're losing so many nurses, not just to Australia, but we're losing them elsewhere.
"We're losing them to other occupations. They're going into teaching, they're going into trades. They're just leaving nursing full-stop."
The strike will go from 11am until 7pm tomorrow.
A number of picket lines and marches are scheduled for the day, across the country.
Urgent services still available - electives cancelled
Green said the DHBs were all set up for the strike, and life-preserving services would stay running.
"At the same time, as DHBs, we plan by reducing the load on hospitals over this time, and where there are services we can delay or postpone, we can do that.
"That's mainly around people that need planned services or elective services as well as call them."
He said anyone with an elective appointment should know by now whether it had been postponed, but if not, they should check with their DHB.
If people do need urgent care, they are being assured they will still be able to attend hospital, or dial 111. If you do not know whether it is urgent, you are being asked to call Healthline or your GP.
Both sides have agreed to meet after the strike, to continue the negotiations.