Nurses strike: Thousands of health workers drown out Health Minister’s address at Parliament

Thousands of fed up health care workers have drowned out Health Minister Andrew Little with boos as he attempted to address striking nurses outside Parliament this afternoon.

From 11am, 30,000 nurses, healthcare assistants and midwives across the country walked off the job for eight hours, demanding better pay and working conditions.

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The strike comes after the New Zealand Nurses Organisation overwhelmingly rejected a second DHB offer in multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) negotiations.

Thousands of nurses and allies walked from Wellington’s Civic Square to the Beehive at midday, where they were addressed by several MPs, including Health Minister Andrew Little.

“You are here because you care. I hear your message and we don’t disagree,” Little told the crowd.

He was received with boos and jeers with one woman yelling “Show us!”

“We are long overdue for a health system that looks after its workers and looks after its people, and a working environment where people can work safely,” Little said.

He began to talk about ongoing work with the Nurses’ Organisation and CCDE to add more nurses to the workforce, before he was eventually drowned out by booing.

Wellington nurse Carla Jordan said she had had every intention of drowning out the Health Minister’s address.

“I can see us striking again, I really can,” she said.

She was new to nursing and said it was not an appealing industry for young people to join.

“I’ve been in for only about a year and a half, and it does nothing but put you off,” she said.

“It’s really not encouraging for a young person to join the profession at the moment.”

Rostering was one of the biggest demands of NZNO, with nurses saying they were struggling under increasing caseloads with limited staff.

A paediatric nurse at Wellington hospital, Jeff Osorio said he had been at work until 2.30 last night.

“We’re always understaffed, our patient log is just crazy,” he said.

“It’s just the frustration … we have been talking to the Government and our union is very supportive as well, but it’s just not getting anywhere.”

He was “absolutely” tempted to find work in Australia, where many New Zealand nurses had already migrated for its better pay and working conditions.

Wellington nurse Angela Crespin had been working for more than four decades, and it was the first time she had ever walked off the job.

“I’m into my 43rd year of nursing, I’m coming up for retirement in the next couple of years,” she said.

“This is my first strike in my working life, so it’s pretty sad to say that I almost got through.

“But I nurse with passion, I’m there for the comfort of my patients and I’m prepared to strike to make sure I have the time to look after my patients a hundred per cent.”

Wellington nurse Kathy Knowles said Wednesday’s strike was a culmination of an underfunded health system and nurses being ignore for years.

“We’ve been bargaining now for a year and we haven’t been listened to for many years,” said Knowles, who had been a nurse for 21 years.

“We haven’t received a significant pay increase since 2004, but this is not just about money.”

“Our working conditions, our staffing and our pay are interwoven, and we can’t attract people to the workforce if the government and the DHB continue to pay us poorly.”

She hoped the strike would make the conditions faced by nurses more visible to the wider public.

“We’re part of that five million and we stood up for you during Covid so please support us at this time.”

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