Health workers to strike

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Among the PSA members to strike are laboratory workers responsible for the swift testing and return of Covid-19 tests.

Thousands of allied, public health, scientific and technical professionals working in district health boards nationwide have voted to strike after stalled negotiations.

It will impact on services at Canterbury District Health Board.

But just how much is yet to be known.

Canterbury DHB chief people officer Mary Johnston said “We are in the early stages of contingency planning to manage the strike action.”

The two 24 hour strikes are planned for March 4 and 18.

Public Service Association (PSA) organiser Will Matthews said the depth of feeling from members and support for industrial action nationwide was unprecedented.

He said after 15 months of fruitless negotiations while carrying out essential work during the pandemic, the group of workers have had enough of being disrespected by their employers.

“Our members care deeply about providing high quality care to their patients and keeping New Zealand safe. However, they have had enough.

“We are now in a position where strike action is our only remaining option to get the DHBs and the Government to listen, and to come to the table with an offer that ensures fair pay and treatment for our members.”

Many of whom report being “burnt out” with understaffed and over worked conditions. As caseloads rise, so do vacancies.

Among those to strike are laboratory workers – who are responsible for the swift testing and return of Covid-19 tests and Covid-19 contact tracers to sterile supplies technicians who clean and sterilise all surgical equipment prior to procedures – New Zealand needs each and every one of these professionals.

Mr Matthews said many of those workers did not earn a living wage.

District Health Board employment relations spokesperson Rosemary Clements, chief executive of Taranaki DHB, said DHBs had asked for facilitation to take place to help settle pay talks with the 10,000 strong group of health workers.

“It’s disappointing allied, public health, scientific and technical staff are planning for strikes, when DHBs have offered a way to avoid them,” she said.

Facilitation would allow an independent third party, with knowledge of the sector, to help reach an agreement without disrupting patients, families and whanau.

“We acknowledge the challenges in the health system and the pressure it puts on our people and to say we don’t value our workforce is simply not true and not consistent with our approach to these talks,” she said.

The PSA has launched a petition for government to present a “decent offer to address pay, progression, retention and skill mix”.