Thousands of public health staff vote to strike as Omicron cases rise

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Feb 17, 2022 |

10,000 allied, public health, scientific and technical professionals who work in DHBs have voted overwhelmingly to strike.

Two 24-hour strikes are planned for early March.

After 15 months of “fruitless negotiations” all the while doing essential work during the pandemic, this group of workers have had enough of being disrespected by their employers.”

PSA organiser Will Matthews said “the depth of feeling from our members, and the support for industrial action nationwide is unprecedented.”

“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.”

There are over 70 groups of workers who will take strike action: from 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. And yet many of them don’t even earn a living wage.”

PSA member, Leighton said, “many of us are burnt out and some cannot even get leave to take a break. We are understaffed and over worked, and we have problems retaining staff. The final nail in the coffin is the message we have been sent that we are not as important or as valuable as the other professions in the health system.”

His colleague Nichola agrees, “Our mental health workforce was stretched and tired before this pandemic reared its head, but now we are close to burn out. As caseloads rise, so do vacancies. The pressure is on.”

“We feel disappointed and frustrated by the offer. We are being left behind while other health professions progress. We now have teammates working alongside one another earning significantly different amounts. We want fair pay, but the DHB offer doesn’t reflect fair pay.”

Delegate Dianna says, of the DHB offer, “The new offer is insulting. It felt like the DHBs only came to mediation because they had to but had nothing to offer in the hope of any resolution.”

“It’s awful to realise that we need to strike in order to be heard! No one across the table appears to be listening to how bad it currently is.”

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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