Say NO to the ‘independent’ inquiry into DHB health worker pay

The Health Sector Workers Network (HSWN) is concerned that the suggestion from Jacinda Ardern and the labour government for an independent inquiry could see NZNO members shafted.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) — which is commonly known as the ‘Nurses Union’ — has been in negotiation with District Health Board (DHB) representatives since mid-2017 when the agreement which covers nearly all Health Care Assistants(HCAs), Nurses and Midwives working in DHBs expired. Members have rejected two previous offers and it was expected that industrial action was the next step.

Following the rejected offers, a solution was put forward of an ‘independent inquiry’ with an ‘independent arbitrator’. If this proposed inquiry is accepted it could lead to some form of official arbitration that could see NZNO members lose out and forced to accept a deal that falls well short of members demands.

A representative body of national delegates from NZNO will be voting soon on whether to accept this process over balloting for industrial action. HSWN have concerns.

  1. There is no independence in this arbitration. The government is the employer. Therefore, the illusion of facilitation to resolution is simply a means of undercutting real wage increase demands.
  2. There have been no clear demands made by NZNO negotiators. Unlike the 18 in 18 campaign the negotiation process has never clearly articulated a specific demand. Therefore, what is the goal of arbitration and what is the mandate?
  3. Momentum is building, don’t stop. If one reads the Nurse Florence Hear Our Voice Facebook page and the media reports relating to chronic underfunding — there is a growing national movement to address the crisis in health. There is a real opportunity for large scale momentum to build that achieves not only the goal of increased pay for members, but wide-reaching improvements to health sector funding.
  4. The method of ‘arbitration’ will increase the disconnect between NZNO members and ‘union bureaucracy’. Many members have had enough of stalling and are calling for action now. The decision to stall further risks further breakdown in trust and takes power away from members.

Momentum must continue to be built. We call on NZNO members to exert pressure to say NO to any inquiry, create clear demands and get the ballot for industrial action underway. This could go someway in regaining the trust of members and restore faith in the collective potential of a union to win.

A better deal will not be won in negotiating rooms but on the picket lines and from the activity of health workers organising for change.

In solidarity,

Health Sector Workers Network

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