Nurses have voted to strike again, saying they’re “extremely frustrated at the lack of progress” in negotiations with employer Te Whatu Ora.
Members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) voted to strike today, chief executive Paul Goulter said, for 24 hours from 9am on August 9.
Te Whatu Ora has not addressed nurses’ concerns, the union said. The vote, organised on Tuesday, came just before Te Whatu Ora made a new offer.
Members will vote on the offer on August 1, and if it is successful the strike will be called off.
“Members demanded this [strike] ballot because they are extremely frustrated at the lack of progress and slow responses from Te Whatu Ora in negotiations,” Goulter said.
“[Those negotiations] have been going on since the current agreement expired back in October,” he said.
Te Whatu Ora national director of hospital and specialist services Fionnagh Doughan said the health agency was disappointed NZNO refused to defer the strike action given its latest offer.
Goulter said union members felt their concerns about unsafe working environments “faced every day in our public hospitals and worksites” haven’t been taken seriously.
“They do not feel they are being heard,” he said.
“To date, claims in negotiations around safer staffing practices, nurse-to-patient ratios and health and safety have pretty much fallen on deaf ears, and these members have simply had enough.”
But Doughan said Te Whatu Ora’s offer included a settlement package which did respond to those claims.
“We value the enormous contribution nurses make to the health system and thank them for the critical role they have in caring for the health needs of our whānau and communities,” she said.
“Te Whatu Ora recognises the importance of health and safety and the wellbeing of our staff.
“This remains a joint priority for us and our union partners. We have already put many processes in place, and others are being considered, to address this,” Doughan said.
She said Te Whatu Ora was boosting the number of employed nurses, noting there were 3500 more working in hospitals than there were five years ago.
“This sits alongside plans to train more nurses, including the additional 830 nurses announced earlier this month,” she said.
Goulter said NZNO members, including nurses, midwives, healthcare assistants and kaimahi haoura, were “always reluctant to strike” because of how it affected patients.
“But there comes a point when they decide they have to strike for the very wellbeing of those patients, whose health and everyday care is jeopardised by unsafe staffing levels that Te Whatu Ora refuses to address,” he said.
NZNO will work with Te Whatu Ora to try and provide life-preserving services at all hospitals and worksites during the strike.
The union will issue Te Whatu Ora with a strike notice next Monday.
Union members will vote in a separate ballot on whether to accept a Te Whatu Ora pay equity offer on July 24.
Raphael Franks is an Auckland-based reporter who covers breaking news. He joined the Herald as a Te Rito cadet in 2022.