Striking paramedic healthcare workers say ‘we need to be valued’
- 10,000 paramedics from more than 70 different specialties are on strike after negotiations over wages and working conditions break down
- Workers belong to the Public Service Association (PSA)
- Marches and pickets take place in 22 locations across the country
- Survival services and personnel are in place in hospitals during the strike
If there’s a premature baby struggling to breathe in neonatal intensive care in the middle of the night, it’s a physiotherapist like Gillian who gets the call to help.
“The team I work in works 24 hours a day. They work on all public holidays. They work at 3 am. Just call them. They are right there.
However, despite two diplomas and more than 20 years of experience: “I am paid in spades. »
The Wellington physiotherapist is one of 10,000 Allied health workers who picketed city squares, pavements outside hospitals and next to highways on Monday after more than a year of negotiations unsuccessful with district health boards over wages and working conditions.
* Health workers’ union says DHB offer was not worth presenting to members
* Hospital dental assistant who can’t afford to visit his own dentist ready to quit his job
* Wellington Hospital staff shortages at ‘critical levels’ in midwifery, nursing and allied health
* Labor court to weigh bid to stop 10,000 paramedics from striking
Paramedic health covers more than 70 specialties, including laboratory technicians, dental assistants, social workers, and alcohol and drug clinicians.
Occupational therapist Zoe Hunt, who works in child and adolescent mental health, had a message for Health Minister Andrew Little: “Please listen and support us, if you want to continue supporting the community. »
The strike took place “because their employer refuses to offer a fair deal to conclude negotiations for their collective agreement”, said their union, the Public Service Association (PSA).
An eleventh-hour offer – the details of which are confidential – from the District Health Boards (DHBs) was rejected by the union, whose leaders called it a “kick in the guts”.
“Our goal, and our only goal, is to reach a settlement that will value our members and provide a decent pay raise for this group of workers,” said PSA organizer Will Matthews.
DHB spokeswoman Keriana Brooking expressed frustration that the union had not brought the offer, which she described as “comprehensive”, to its members for consideration.
In Auckland, more than a hundred people gathered in Albert Park, and chants could be heard in the streets as the group prepared to march to Aotea Square.
Lab nurse Dali Jobson said her team was there during the pandemic crisis and kept the lab needs going for the community, all for minimal pay.
“We are expected to hold the fort… [and] we expect to do all these things without being heard.
A spokesperson for Auckland DHB said patient safety remained a priority and had worked with the union to agree on life preservation services and staffing levels.
In Christchurch, at least 300 workers joined a protest march despite the drizzle.
Members of all professions gathered opposite Christchurch Hospital in Hagley Park before heading to the Memorial Bridge.
Along the way, they stopped on Oxford Terrace, directing their chants and chants to the headquarters of the Canterbury District Health Board.
Medical laboratory scientist Andrea Baker, 55, has been in the job for more than 30 years, but said her salary has indeed fallen as rates have stagnated and failed to keep in line with inflation.
Baker said she made $37 an hour in the top bracket, with no opportunity for further raises.
“We were recognized, we were paid at par, but now it slips, and with each cycle it slips and slips and slips. We are a profession very passionate about medicine and we deserve to be paid as such.”
MARTIN DE RUYTER/STUFF
Striking PSA union members demonstrate outside Nelson Hospital demanding better wages and working conditions.
In Nelson, protesters lined Waimea Rd outside Nelson Hospital on a gray and drizzly morning, where around 150 people were expected.
Nelson’s social worker Monique Swart, who held up a sign in front of passing cars, said health workers had “given so much of themselves”.
The staff didn’t do the work to make a lot of money, but still needed to be paid fairly, she said.
“We are people who do this with our hearts, and that does not mean that we can continue to work without being valued… At the end of the day, we have to pay our bills and life is very expensive.”
Some nurses stood alongside the protesters in a show of solidarity, and in the windows of the hospital orange hearts could be seen, displayed by staff inside, showing their support.
PSA Southland delegate Stacey Muir said many of the strikers were minimum wage workers and she was “absolutely disgusted” that negotiations had broken down.
Striking healthcare workers outside Southland Hospital.
The car horns blaring in support of the strike were unbelievable, Muir said.
“It makes us feel like the public is really getting the hard work that we’ve done over the last two years and want to stay in health care.”
More than 50 South Canterbury health workers picketed Timaru as motorists drove past in a show of support for workers.
“It’s not just doctors and nurses who have kept the country running during Covid-19 and the day-to-day running of the healthcare system,” said Janet Quigley, who has worked in the healthcare industry for 52 years.
Quigley, who was picketing Timaru, said it was “unacceptable” that many workers, such as sterilization technicians, only received wage increases when the minimum wage rose.
“It’s not good enough for the people who work in our healthcare system.”
The PSA will follow the strike with two weeks of industrial action in a bid to get district health boards to accept recommendations the Labor Relations Authority made a few weeks ago.
Matthews said the ERA facilitator’s recommendations offered “much more than the offer we received on Friday”.
Other health unions support PSA
The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), the New Zealand Dental Association (NZDA) and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) all backed the strike today.
CTU President Richard Wagstaff called on healthcare employers to make “a serious offer” to settle the dispute.
“Allied health workers have been at the heart of our Covid response, and they patiently waited 18 months for a reasonable offer in the hope that they wouldn’t be penalized for it.”
ASMS Executive Director Sarah Dalton said: “These people are part of the glue that holds our public hospitals together.
“They provide invaluable support to our own members and play a major role in the therapy and care of patients, as well as in the proper functioning of health services.”
NZDA’s Dr Katie Ayers said oral health therapists invest thousands of dollars in their education but started their careers with an hourly rate as low as $22.50 an hour in the public system, “barely above minimum wage”.
Additional reporting: Katie Townshend, Rachael Comer, Ryan Anderson, Cate Macintosh