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Reduced services at Wellington hospitals during midwives’ strike

News from CCDHB
Some midwives who are members of the Midwifery Employee Representation and Advisory Service (MERAS) are undertaking strike action from 11am to 7pm on Thursday 12 August.

Midwives are a highly valued part of our workforce, and Hutt Valley and Capital & Coast DHBs respect their right to strike and detailed contingency planning is in place to ensure women and babies can continue to receive the safe and quality care and support they require.

As part of our planning, some non-urgent planned appointments and procedures have been rescheduled and affected patients have been contacted accordingly.

CCDHB

Paraparaumu maternity unit will remain open
Kenepuru maternity unit will remain open
Birthing suite will remain open – but there will be no elective inductions of labour or Caesarean sections undertaken on the day
4 North maternity will remain open
WHAS will remain open
Women’s clinics – MFM appointments will continue to run as will the Wellington based anti-D prophylactic clinic. There are no other maternity clinics running on this day.

HVDHB

Delivery Suite will remain open – but there will be no elective inductions of labour or Caesarean sections undertaken on the day.
Maternity ward will remain open
EPC will remain open
MAU will close and all assessments will be done in Delivery Suite
ANC closed to non-urgent and will remain open with very limited capacity for urgent Diabetic women only.
CMT will continue to run with very limited capacity, urgent postnatal visits only and triaging of phone calls for women.

Anyone who is pregnant and has questions should speak to their Lead Maternity Carer (midwife or obstetrician).

NZHerald: Eleven nurses resign within ten days at Wellington Hospital

News from NZNO
The New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) stands in solidarity with Midwifery Employee Representation and Advisory Service (MERAS) members’ strike action. Hospital midwives with the MERAS union will begin a series of rolling strikes today starting in Northland, Southern and the three Auckland DHBS, with the possibility of a 12 hour strike on 19 August – the same day on which NZNO’s DHB members plan to strike for eight hours.

NZNO Acting Chief Executive Mairi Lucas said MERAS midwives face similar issues to NZNO members who work in DHB hospitals and facilities.

“We also have many members who work in midwifery, and we recognise they share similar struggles for safe working conditions and fair pay, and they – in fact all those belonging to NZNO – stand shoulder-to-shoulder in mutual support.

“It’s the same old story where a highly skilled and trained workforce struggles to have the value of their work recognised because they are mostly women.”

She said that, as with NZNO members, strike action is never taken lightly.

“Like nursing, midwifery is a caring profession but, also like nurses, midwives are professionals who deserve to be valued and safe in a workplace where their own wellbeing is cared for.”

Ms Lucas urged the district health boards to come to each negotiation with a mind to settle in a way that will help guarantee the future of both professions.

“Fair pay is essential to both workforces retaining staff and recruiting for the future. But both professions are also stressed, over-worked and under-resourced. The future health of all New Zealanders remains under threat as long as these issues are unaddressed.”

News from MERAS – August 4
Midwives employed by DHBs will go ahead with planned rolling strikes next week after mediation on Monday failed to reach agreement.

The 8-hour strikes will start on Monday in Northland, the three Auckland DHBs and Southern DHB, and move towards Wellington, DHB by DHB, over the following three days, culminating in a rally at Parliament on Thursday 12th August.

MERAS, the union for around 1500 DHB-employed midwives, also issued strike notices yesterday for a further 12-hour strike (8am to 8pm) on Thursday, 19th August.

Jill Ovens, MERAS Co-leader (Industrial), says the problem is there is limited ability to negotiate because the DHBs’ advocates are not the decision-makers.

“The DHBs’ advocates have no mandate to move beyond an offer that has been through several layers of bureaucracy to be approved,” Ms Ovens says. “It is so frustrating, and must be very difficult for them.”

She says that among those who make the decisions (the DHBs’ Chief Executives and Ministry of Health officials), there is no sense of urgency to address the critical shortage of midwives in DHBs.

“As we know from the contingency planning for life preserving services (LPS) over the past week, DHBs are operating at minimum staffing levels and in some cases, unsafe staffing levels. This puts midwives at risk, and it puts the women and babies of New Zealand at risk. It is not acceptable.”

DHBs made withdrawal of the rolling strikes a condition of the union bringing the offer to members to vote on. They also insisted upon agreement that MERAS would not ballot for, or issue, any further strike notices in August.

“Our negotiating team would have considered this, had we been able to negotiate a proposed settlement that we could recommend to members. Sadly, that was not the case,” Ms Ovens says.

She says midwives are mindful that the cost of living is currently 3.3% as they have experienced big increases in housing costs, petrol and electricity costs, and food prices.

“The flat rate pay increase on offer not only fell short of CPI, but we were expected to accept a 27-month term with no backpay for the six months since the MECA [Multi-employer Collective Agreement with the 20 DHBs] expired. The latest offer would have been worse than the $1200 plus $1200 flat rate increases that our members already rejected, which was over two years and would have meant our members would have been $2400 better off this time next year. So of course we said ‘no’,” Ms Ovens says.

Caroline Conroy, MERAS co-leader (Midwifery), says the DHBs have not responded to the proposal by MERAS for a retention allowance to encourage midwives working in DHBs where there is a high proportion of vacancies – most DHBs in the country.

“This was discussed extensively at our last MECA negotiations and was rejected by the DHBs at the time. Immediately after we settled, some DHBs implemented retention allowances outside the MECA. Several more DHBs have either implemented retention allowances or they are currently working on proposals to do so,” Ms Conroy says.

“If the DHBs are going to offer these allowances, it is in everyone’s interests for the allowances to be part of the MECA, and negotiated nationally with MERAS. This would not only ensure consistency, but also that DHBs are not competing with each other for midwives, who are a scarce resource, rather than focussing on the challenges of retaining the midwifery workforce across Aotearoa.”

Ms Conroy says the union’s proposal was for an allowance based on agreed vacancy levels, with an additional allowance to encourage DHB-employed midwives to increase their FTE.

MERAS was offered interim payments for the pay equity claim, based on the work done so far to assess the extent of the undervaluation of midwives.

Ms Ovens says MERAS supports these payments in principle as a party to the Midwifery Pay Equity claim, which has taken much longer than expected to conclude.

“The pay equity negotiations will result in a significant increase in midwives’ salaries during the term of the MECA and so midwives might as well receive some of the funding that has been set aside by the Government, now, as opposed to waiting until we get a final pay equity settlement, which could be some way off,” she says.

[An earlier outdated report from CCDHB said there was to be a nurses’ strike on Wednesday 10 August. This incorrect information has now been removed from the CCDHB website and we have also removed it from wellington.scoop. The nurses’ strike is to be on Thursday 19 August.]

4 comments:

  1. Ranesha, 8. August 2021, 9:51

    Nurses pay is so bad here in NZ – we are going to lose them all to Australia. One wonders why anyone would do the training only to come out making a dollar more than a support worker. Then these new grads have a student loan to pay back on top. New grads make $26 per hour which is a dollar more than not having any training at all. Overseas the payrate is 3x with better working conditions. There will be no nurses left to take care of the sick in NZ if the govt does not front up and pay them what they are worth. (by the way doctors get free meals at most hospitals as part of their MECA – maybe it’s time the nurse’s union start looking after their nurses as well…rather than lying in bed with the DHB’s)

     
  2. TrevorH, 8. August 2021, 11:11

    I can’t understand the government’s intransigence in refusing to pay nurses what they are worth on the international market and in the midst of a pandemic. It suggests their priorities are horribly wrong.

     
  3. Claire, 8. August 2021, 11:52

    What on earth would we do without nurses? Please pay what these great people are worth. Or is it a sexism thing given the majority of nurses are female? The govt was prepared to pay $700million for a cycle bridge for goodness sake. Priorities.

     
  4. Thomas Nash, 10. August 2021, 15:50

    We must pay our midwives more. Their work embodies the absolute best of humanity. [via twitter]