The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) says mediation, scheduled for 1 September, is the last chance to resolve the impasse that has led to scheduled strike action on 3 September.
NZNO issued a strike notice covering some 3200 Primary Health Care (PHC) nurses and receptionist/administration staff across more than 500 practices and accident/medical centres nationwide on 19 August.
However, NZNO Industrial Advisor Chris Wilson says additional Government funding will need to be provided quickly to Primary Health Care (PHC) employers if a resolution is to be reached.
"Our PHC members have had enough of constantly hearing how valuable they are when absolutely no effort is being made to show that value in any tangible way.
"They hear themselves praised at daily press conferences as part of a ‘dedicated and responsive COVID-19 workforce’, and then they hear the Government saying their pay is not its problem."
Ms Wilson says the Government’s claim that it does not get involved in private sector negotiations is unhelpful and has not been our experience.
"Hon Chris Hipkins, as Minister of Education, authorised additional funding as recently as May for the recruitment and retention of Early Childhood Education teachers, despite them being private sector workplaces.
"Our situation is no different as PHC nurse recruitment and retention issues are at an all-time high. Our members just want to be paid the same as their DHB colleagues and a mere $15 million is all that is required."
NZNO and employer advocates the NZ Medical Association and Green Cross Health have approached the Ministry of Health and Government on several occasions seeking intervention to end this pay inequity at a time when PHC members are again at the forefront of the national COVID-19 response.
"If the political will is there we could achieve a resolution without the strike needing to occur, but we are down to the wire now and its very disappointing nothing tangible has been forthcoming.
"We need the Government to urgently do the right thing for the people who help save lives during the perilous time of a pandemic. That would be in the interests of everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand right now."
Ms Wilson said PHC members do understand the implications of a strike during a pandemic, and that NZNO is in the process of confirming a protocol with the employer representatives if it is deemed patient safety is at risk in terms of the management of urgent/emergency care during the strike.