More than 230 nurses working at private hospitals in the North Island are resuming strike action following a breakdown in talks with their employer.
Strike rallies will take place today at Wakefield and Bowen hospitals in Wellington, and Royston Hospital in Hastings.
About 80 elective procedures will be rescheduled across the three hospitals owned by Evolution Healthcare.
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) says the battle is over having the same wages and conditions as nurses who work in public hospitals.
Wakefield Hospital nurse and NZNO delegate Lisa Blackmore claimed Evolution Healthcare has refused to meet with the union, despite repeated calls to return to the bargaining table.
“We are committed to achieving an increase that reflects what we are worth and mitigates the cost-of-living crisis all members face,” she said.
Some of the union’s demands include wages being back-paid at the rate of inflation, wages for 2022 onwards paid at Te Whatu Ora Pay Equity rates, and more sick leave days.
“The employer has not met with us since September 6 at mediation despite a member-signed resolution urging the employer to return to the bargaining table,” Blackmore said.
She considered a recent public statement made by Evolution Healthcare, which revealed information about a new proposed offer, to be a breach of good faith.
On Sunday, Evolution Healthcare chief executive Sue Channon said she was disappointed and frustrated by NZNO’s refusal to withdraw strike action even when the union was advised of a new three-year proposal.
She claimed the union was misrepresenting Evolution Healthcare’s position.
“Our current offer would have given our nurses median pay rises of 15 per cent over two years, plus increased allowances, education, and leave entitlements.
“If our NZNO delegates had accepted this offer, they would have been amongst the best-paid nurses in the country. Their pay increases would have been immediate, it would have been more than their public sector colleagues, and in the top band of the private healthcare sector across Aotearoa.”
After the union did not accept this offer and went on strike for 24 hours in October, Channon said Evolution Healthcare wanted to discuss a new three-year proposal which would result in 20 to 30 per cent pay increases for many nurses.
“We’ve offered the union several meetings, agreed to their requests for rescheduling, and rather than come to the table and negotiate in a positive way, its response has been to issue a strike notice – that’s hardly professional or responsible.”
But Blackmore said Evolution Healthcare would only release its new proposed offer if the union withdrew its strike notices.
She said despite Evolution Healthcare’s repeated declarations they have a new proposed offer for members, they have not returned to the bargaining table.
Evolution Healthcare has been approached for further comment to the statement Channon made on Sunday.
Today’s strike rallies will take place from 11am to 2pm at Wakefield Hospital and 3pm to 5.30pm at Bowen Hospital. Royston Hospital members will picket from 10am to 12pm.