Nurses’ strike has officially started

The AM Show 12/07/2018

Around 30,000 nurses across New Zealand will join the nationwide strike today, bringing all non-essential hospital care to a halt. The biggest assembly is expected in Auckland, where nurses will march down Queen Street.

Emergency care will still operate, with some nurses still at work to help DHBs provide life-preserving services. But other health services will be stalled, with potentially up to 8000 elective surgeries getting postponed.

Dr Rachael Mason from New Zealand innovation agency Callaghan Innovation tweeted that she hopes Kiwis understand that nurses are striking "for us".

We’re standing up for ourselves for the first time in a very, very long time.

Danni Wilkinson, a registered nurse, told The AM Show that the deadlock between DHBs and the nurses’ union will break once the nurses get a 15 to 18 percent pay raise and 1,500 additional nurses added to the workforce.

Ms Wilkinson is part of the nurses’ strike outside of Auckland City Hospita. Nurses outside the hospital have gathered carrying flags and signs that call for safer staffing.

“We’re standing up for ourselves for the first time in a very, very long time. And I think the momentum from today will keep us pushing forward to get what we know we deserve.”

Nurses had been offered a $500 million deal which included pay increases of 12.5 percent to 15.9 percent over 25 months, and 500 more nurses to cope with shortages.

New Zealand nurses start on $49,499 and under the proposed deal that would be increased to $50,932. Nurses get a pay increase every year from there, subject to good performance, and then earn $67,000 after five years. The rejected deal offered a new top salary of $77,386, and senior nurses could earn up to $77,386.

But Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters and Finance Minister Grant Robertson have been clear that the Government has no additional money to help boost the DHBs’ pay offer.  

On Wednesday, Mr Robertson told The AM Show that the Government’s surplus will not be used for the nurses.

Mr Robertson explained that surpluses are necessary for a rainy day and allow the Government to ensure they can invest in big infrastructure projects.

Auckland strikes will take place at Auckland Hospital, alongside Middlemore, Waitakere, and North Shore. Then the nurses will be joining together for a march up Queen Street at 11am today to Aotea Square. They will then separate and picket again in the afternoon from about 2pm until evening.

Anyone experiencing a medical emergency should not delay going to hospital. If it's non-urgent, go to a GP, call Healthline for free on 0800 611 116 or see a pharmacist.

Watch the full interview with Dr John Tait and Danni Wilkinson above.

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