New Zealand: Nurses reject sellout pay deal
30 March 2018
On March 26 the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) announced that nurses and other hospital workers had rejected a 2 percent pay offer negotiated by the union with the country’s 20 District Health Boards (DHBs). The NZNO refused to say what percentage of its 27,000 members voted against the sellout deal.
The rejection was accompanied by demands by workers on social media for strike action. The movement among health workers is part of a rising tide of class struggle internationally, including strikes by teachers in the US, Europe, Africa and South America. Since the Labour Party-led government took office in New Zealand last October, there have been strikes by commuter rail workers in Auckland and Wellington and port workers in Lyttelton.
Nurses are angry about the rundown state of healthcare, which has suffered decades of underfunding and pro-market reforms under Labour and National Party governments. Following the 2008 financial crisis, austerity measures imposed by the National government starved the health sector of funds needed to keep pace with population growth and inflation.
The NZNO presented the offer as an “improvement” on one nurses had rejected in December, even though both proposals included a pay rise of just 2 percent. The latest offer contained a $1,050 lump sum payment, up from $350.
The starting rate for a registered nurse is just $47,000 a year (more than 30 percent lower than in Australia) and the proposed increase was less than $20 a week—effectively a wage freeze. Official inflation last year was 1.6 percent, but the price of food increased 2.3 percent and utilities went up 3 percent. Rents soared by 5.4 percent, driven by speculation in the property market and a…