"Frustrated" Bay of Plenty pharmacy workers and nurses will today strike for pay equity.
The move comes six months after negotiations with no resolution.
Tauranga Hospital pharmacist Adele Harrex understood the complexity of the timing, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but said she wasn't asking for much.
"Because we know there's a pay freeze [due to Covid-19], we've asked for equity with other allied health workers, other pharmacists, who are under another union called the PSA."
Harrex said the PSA pharmacy members had their contract updated in 2018. Those, like her, who were members of the APEX union were asking for the same rights.
"That's why we are standing our ground."
The latest offer from the DHB sees APEX pharmacy members being paid the same as their colleagues more than a year after the PSA members began receiving those rates.
But Harrex said this was not good enough.
"At the end of 2021, we'd be aligned with what that group of staff are getting now, but they are ready to go and do their own pay negotiations so we're always going to be behind by 15 to 18 months.
"It's not fair."
Bay of Plenty DHB contingency planning lead Neil McKelvie said pharmacy staff were an essential part of healthcare in the hospitals but hoped patients would have some understanding.
"We respect the right of staff to strike, hence the importance we put on contingency planning to ensure the safety of patients, whānau, visitors and staff."
He said talks would continue with APEX and believed they were working towards a "positive and amicable solution".
The Ministry of Health said it was not their place to comment on the pharmacy negotiations.
APEX pharmacy advocate Denise Tairua said the pharmacy workers had been more than patient with the DHB and felt the partial strike was the only option.
"Pharmacy workers who are members of APEX work alongside their colleagues doing the same work for less pay.
"The DHB can afford to pay these staff the same rates as their colleagues, and indeed would have to do so if they were to switch to the other collective agreement that covers pharmacy workers."
Meanwhile, primary healthcare nurses (PHC) in Rotorua and the Bay of Plenty began their industrial action todayto be paid the same as their hospital peers. It comes more than a year after failed negotiations between primary healthcare nurses and the Government. Nurses say they are paid 10.6 per cent less than their DHB colleagues but hold the same qualifications, skills and experience.
These nurses are covered by the primary healthcare multi-employer collective agreement.
New Zealand Nurse Organisation industrial adviser for the primary healthcare sector, Chris Wilson, said the situation was simply "not good enough" and additional Government funding needed to be provided quickly if a resolution was to be reached.
"The Government has known about the urgency of pay parity in PHC for at least a year, and to not pull out all stops to address the serious PHC recruitment and retention issues is beyond belief.
"The acknowledged value of our members' work should mean we do not need to consider taking industrial action to have that recognised."
When the strike was announced two weeks ago, Health Minister Chris Hipkins told NZME it would be inappropriate for the Government to get involved in a pay dispute, despite the Government being the primary source of funding.
"Their pay and conditions are not negotiated with the Government or Crown entities," Hipkins said, saying pay was a matter for staff and their employers, who are running private businesses.
Western Bay of Plenty Primary Health Organisation chief executive Lindsey Webber said local GPs and medical centres would be open, but there was potential for a minor disruption.
"The leadership team highly values our nurses and the contributions they make to our organisation and the community, and we support their endeavours to reach pay parity in order to maintain a sustainable and highly-skilled workforce," she said.
The primary health organisation has 31 general practices in its network.
Who is striking and what are they striking for?
• Pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, pharmacy assistants, and pharmacy interns working at both Tauranga and Whakatāne Hospitals are partially striking until September 9.
• APEX pharmacy workers are wanting immediate alignment to the rate their colleagues, who are members of another union, are currently paid.
• The action is a withdrawal of labour for specific tasks, not a complete withdrawal.
• Primary healthcare nurses, medical receptionists and administrators are striking for eight hours on September 3.
• An experienced nurse, with six or more years' experience, is currently paid 10.6 per cent ($7650 a year) less than their colleagues working for a district health board.
Source: Apex, New Zealand Nurses Organisation, Bay of Plenty DHB