New Zealand health unions suppress struggles against Labour government


New Zealand health unions suppress struggles against Labour government

John Braddock

6 February 2019

Around 3,300 junior doctors from New Zealand’s public hospitals struck for a second time on January 29, after negotiations with the 20 District Health Boards (DHBs) for a new collective contract broke down. Members of the Resident Doctors’ Association (RDA) are preparing to strike again on February 12–13 to oppose attacks on their working conditions.

The DHBs want to extend the number of consecutive days that doctors can be rostered on from 10 to 12. They also want to force doctors to work shifts longer than 16 hours and to relocate them anywhere in the country. Doctors already work under notoriously trying conditions. Long hours leave them exhausted, putting patients’ and their own safety at risk.

About 1,000 hospital midwives have separately voted for four 12-hour strikes beginning on February 11. Following a series of rolling stoppages in November, the Midwifery Employee Representation and Advisory Service (MERAS) sought facilitated talks, but there has been no resolution with the DHBs. Midwives are seeking a better offer than that imposed last year in a sellout agreement by the NZ Nurses Organisation (NZNO), which gave 30,000 nurses a rise of 3 percent per annum over three years, essentially a freeze in real wages.

Anaesthetic technicians and ambulance paramedics have also taken limited industrial action in recent months. The Public Service Association (PSA) is to hold nationwide stopwork meetings next week for 5,500 hospital administration staff. According to the union, industrial action will be “one of the options” considered following delays in reaching a new collective employment agreement. The low-paid workers want a wage increase and an end to…

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