INDEPENDENT NEWS

Government’s Pre-election Pay Parity Promise Will Need Increased Budget Funding

Published: Thu 16 May 2024 05:13 PM
On 27 September 2023, during a televised pre-election leaders’ debate, Christopher Luxon said that regardless of whether nurses work in aged care, general practice or "the DHB equivalent system", they should be paid the same. When asked if he would do that should he win the election, Mr Luxon said he would. [1]
He won the election and he hasn’t.
The Coalition Government has refused to commit to adequately fund Primary/Community Health Care when the current Pay Equity claim in the sector is settled, despite Mr Luxon’s promise.
The New Zealand Nurses organisation Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) says the harmful effects of this wage gap are being felt across the health system in Aotearoa New Zealand, and calls for increases to health budget funding so the problem can be properly fixed.
"Health budgets are now set every three years instead of yearly so the Government has one chance to get this right, pay what’s fair and just, and avoid consigning us to an impoverished, ineffectual health system for years to come," said NZNO Chief Executive Paul Goulter.
Gisborne general practice nurse Ayla Evans says the worst part of the problem for general practices is in recruiting and retaining staff, especially those with valuable experience, because those staff could earn up to 20 percent more working in a hospital.
"This is a seriously big deal because we’re going to lose half our workforce to retirement in the next 10 years, so Pay Parity with Te Whatu Ora is not a want; it’s a need! I think it’s really important that Budget 2024 reflects that."
Ayla says she and her colleagues feel undervalued and frustrated at being paid so much less despite having the same qualifications and experience as their Te Whatu Ora colleagues.
"Our employers do their best to pay us well, but to do that they’ve had to free up funds by reducing other services and shortening opening hours. We now close at 5pm instead of 8pm, which means a lot of the forestry workers and others who can’t get to us during the day miss out on proper care. It’s having a huge impact on our community.
"It’s like the Government doesn’t understand that Primary Care is there to prevent health problems from worsening, and to provide health education that can keep people well and out of hospitals and our overloaded emergency departments. Yet it seems all the money goes to Te Whatu Ora as the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff.
"And how many Primary Health Care jobs could we have saved if the money given to landlords and set aside for tax cuts went into funding Pay Parity for nurses?"
But it is not General Practice alone feeling the effects. Wellington Plunket nurse Hannah Cook says the Government's failure to honour its promise and pay Whanau Awhina Plunket staff in line with those at Te Whatu Ora is inappropriate and unfair.
"Experienced Plunket nurses are feeling unappreciated for their mahi and are either leaving or taking on a second job to make ends meet. Plunket nurses are doing a fantastic job, but our goodwill and passion can only be relied upon for so long.
"The Government needs to honour its commitment to Pay Parity for all nurses, wherever they work."
[1] See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NAXkCQu_hhc=39m7s

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