After six months of failed negotiations Bay of Plenty District Health Board pharmacy workers are ready for "inevitable" strike action.
The pharmacy workers who are part of the Association of Professional and Executive Employees (APEX) union have notified the health board they will go on full strike next Tuesday, after their partial industrial action last week failed to bring a result.
The strike will mean APEX union pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, pharmacy assistants, and pharmacy interns from Tauranga and Whakatāne hospitals and all associated services will stop work for 24 hours.
The action could cause disruptions, including the rescheduling of trials or oncology patients who required to be seen on a specific day.
Members of the APEX union took partial strike action, withdrawing from labour for specific tasks for a week ending September 9, sought pay equity with their Public Service Association (PSA) union counterparts after six months of failed negotiations on their collective agreement.
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.
Tauranga Hospital pharmacist Adele Harrex has previously said: "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."
She said the PSA pharmacy members had their contract updated in 2018 and now, APEX members like herself were asking for the same.
She said walking off the job for the day was "inevitable" action.
"We've made a small impact with a partial strike but things aren't progressing so the logical next step is to do a full strike," Harrex said.
"We're in limbo at the moment waiting for an offer that we haven't seen yet, so let's do something about it."
She said a full strike was 24 hours of no service from the APEX union members. It meant pharmacy workers who weren't union members would have to carry the load.
"It will be a lot more disruption compared to the last strike.
"It could mean rescheduling a trials patient or an oncology patient or something that has to be done on a specific day.
"It'll mean ordering extra beforehand or delaying something by a day so the contingency planning means you can work around that day."
The overarching responsibility of a pharmacist is to ensure medication is appropriate and safe for a patient.
In the hospital, a pharmacist can have many different roles, such as a clinical pharmacist who works with patients and other healthcare professionals on the wards and in clinics, being a pharmacist-prescriber or working as a specialist pharmacist within a speciality.
A hospital trained pharmacy technician may also work in a ward setting, performing medicine reconciliation on admission and discharge.
In a hospital pharmacy, duties might include the processing of prescriptions and dispensing of medicines, stock imprest management, repacking bulk medicines, monitoring and delivery of medication to hospital wards and departments.
Bay of Plenty DHB acting chief operating officer Bronwyn Anstis said the board and the union were continuing to work co-operatively towards a settlement.
"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.
Contingency planning was in place and the board was making appropriate plans, Anstis said. That included ensuring patient safety was not compromised in any way and to mitigate disruption.
"The work pharmacy staff complete is an essential part of healthcare in our hospitals however and as such asked people for their patience and understanding over the course any strike action."
When asked about details of the negotiations, the DHB would not provide a comment.
APEX pharmacy advocate Denise Tairua said the mediation was postponed as the employer didn't have an offer to make and couldn't confirm when they would be able to make one.
"We are still waiting for a date to be confirmed to get back to the bargaining table.
"Our members are becoming increasingly frustrated."
The proposed strike will be continuous, from 8am September 22 to 8am September 23, and will involve a full withdrawal of all labour.
The Ministry of Health said it was not their place to comment on the pharmacy negotiations.