In her job as a dental assistant at the hospital, Raewyn Love sees a constant stream of desperate and anxious people, many of whom live with the agony of a toothache.
The 52-year-old has worked in a high-stress, specialist job for 16 years, earning $25.50 an hour – and can’t afford regular dental visits herself.
“I almost never go there, I just do it periodically and try to get a deal because I can’t afford the normal cost of dental treatment. [care].”
Love is among 10,000 hospital workers from 75 different professions who are on strike for 24 hours on Monday.
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Members of the Public Service Association (PSA) and Allied Health Workers will continue the strike after an eleventh-hour offer – the details of which are confidential – from the District Health Boards (DHB) was rejected by the union, whose leaders called it “a kick in the gut”.
An offer in February for salary increases of between $1,800 and $4,200 over a 27-month period was rejected by the PSA.
Love said the offer wouldn’t have made any difference to her situation, given inflation.
“It’s demoralizing, it’s humiliating, it’s… embarrassing. Makes me feel like a lower class citizen…not worthy enough to be paid properly.
She said her income made life difficult.
“I had to do things like get help from children’s charity Variety or go to City Mission for a food parcel – you do whatever you have to do to get by.”
PSA organizer Will Matthews said Friday’s offer did not honor recommendations made by the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) during the facilitation.
“We made it clear to employers that if an offer was made that honored the Employment Relations Authority report, we would recommend it to our members.
It follows more than 18 months of negotiations between the parties for a new collective agreement for paramedics.
Hospital workers under the “allied health” multi-employer agreement belong to 75 professions, including laboratory technicians, anesthesia technicians, oral health therapists, alcohol and drug addiction clinicians and science technicians sterile.
The ERA’s recommendations have been kept confidential between the negotiating teams, but on Friday the PSA formally sought approval from health boards to share them with members.
Matthews said on Friday the union’s request was denied by health boards. He blamed the result on the Ministry of Health.
“The Ministry of Health missed every opportunity to provide workers with a decent deal and as a result 10,000 health workers went on strike.
Without a guarantee of a fair wage, paramedics will again vote for a sustained strike until June and beyond when the new Health NZ is established.
Hundreds of appointments have been canceled in Canterbury ahead of the planned strike and cancer care will be affected, with similar levels of disruption likely across the country.
A spokesman for the Canterbury District Health Board said the emergency department would be affected by the strike and wait times would be longer.
About 100 outpatient appointments and 220 community appointments run by paramedics had been canceled as of Monday, they said.
Surgeries would be limited to urgent and life-saving procedures only.
This week, Allied healthcare workers launched limited industrial action, working to govern and taking all authorized breaks from May 9.
Steve Grant, a sterile science technician, previously said he had worked for a health board for 12 years and was now paid $25.40 an hour, compared to $27 an hour paid to supervisors shift at KFC.
He took a second job in bar security to get by, and the hourly rate for that job was higher than his job at the health board, he said.
Its board of health was budgeted to have 23 employees on its team. The team now numbered 13 people, including six interns with only a year’s experience or less.
Health boards spokeswoman Keriana Brooking, who is also chief executive of Hawke’s Bay DHB, said earlier this week that the health boards were reviewing the recommendations made by the Employment Relations Authority “as a matter of urgency and hope to finalize a formal settlement offer for PSA members to consider as soon as possible.”
Boards of Health have been approached for comment.