New Zealand Nurses Organisation rams through sellout pay deal
John Braddock and Tom Peters
8 August 2018
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) announced at a media conference on Tuesday that it had secured enough votes in an online ballot held over the previous week to seal a contract settlement with the country’s 21 District Health Boards (DHBs).
The deal for a new Multi-Employer Contract Agreement (MECA) is a betrayal of the union’s 30,000 members, who rejected four previous offers presented over the past nine months. Health workers held a 24-hour strike on July 12, the first nationwide action in nearly 30 years, to demand better pay—after 14 years with no substantial increase—and improved staffing in public hospitals. The endorsement of the agreement has only been achieved by the deliberate wearing down of health workers by the NZNO.
NZNO organiser Cee Payne declared that the new agreement “will lay down the foundations for a much safer and rewarding career in nursing,” adding “our members’ voices have been heard.” Union president Grant Brookes said workers had taken industrial action “to secure decent pay, safe staffing, and safe patient care.”
In reality, the final settlement is almost identical to two previous offers that workers rejected prior to the strike. It includes a 9 percent pay rise spread over 2017 to 2019, just above inflation, and a miniscule 500 extra staff for the entire country. Hospitals are woefully understaffed due to a decade of austerity measures following the 2008 financial crisis. As a result, patients are placed at risk and tens of thousands of people are denied vital treatment every year.
The strike, the first since 1989, was carried out in defiance of NZNO leaders, who cancelled an earlier stoppage on July 5,…