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DHB admin workers to stop work

District Health Board administration workers will hold nationwide stop work meetings on February 11 to discuss the possibility of industrial action.

The meeting come after some regions have been attempting to settle their collective agreement for 11 months without success.

Public Service Association national organiser Ashok Shankar said other types of workers in hospitals have already had their pay requests settled.

“We don’t want this group to fall behind the pay increases that other groups have already achieved.”

He said the work of administration staff is often overlooked.

“It is said to us quite a lot by our members, working at McDonald's is quite attractive for people for the type of money they are being offered to do this work.”

“What the clerical workers do is hold the system together before anybody else can go and do their bit.”

Tasks range from reception and call centre tasks to managing payroll, paying bills, ordering supplies, transcribing medical notes and specialised tasks such as coding operations in order to receive funding.

Shankar said administration workers are among the poorest-paid workers in the health system with some roles offering little more than minimum wage.

“It is said to us quite a lot by our members, working at McDonald's is quite attractive for people for the type of money they are being offered to do this work.”

He believes that as a group, administrative and clerical workers are undervalued.

“The vast majority of this group, about 96 percent, are female. The value of the work they do is not appreciated or understood very easily.”

An equal pay claim is underway as a separate process to the collective agreements.

Collective agreements in the northern and lower North Island regions expired in March 2018 without new settlements being reached, and two more agreements will expire within the next month.

PSA national secretary Kerry Davies said there is evidence Counties Manukau DHB has left vacancies open as a cost-savings measure.

“The populations being served at DHBs have kept growing and yet there is a retrogressive cap in place on admin staff. The attitude taken to administration workers – across the country – is that they will keep making endless sacrifices like working in smaller teams and for longer hours to help prop up the health system.”

As of November 26, several DHB’s reported administration vacancies showed widespread gaps in the workforce.

Counties Manukau DHB had the highest number of vacancies in roles described as management administration personnel. The DHB said the 114 vacancies may also include vacancies due to parental leave. In December it was reported by RNZ that 58 administration positions were being left unfilled to save $2.2million per year.

Other DHBs also have unfilled administration vacancies. Hawke's Bay DHB had 27 vacancies. Waitemata DHB had the equivalent of 26.4 full-time administration positions vacant and Southern DHB 18.2. Bay of Plenty DHB has 15 vacancies.

“It is becoming more and more obvious that the neglect and undervaluation of DHB administration workers, who play an integral role at the front line of service delivery at our hospitals and who carry growing workloads, has reached a chronic level,” said Davies.

The stop work meeting is expected to take two hours. If strike action is decided on, 14 days’ notice must be given before it can occur.

Likely impacts of a strike could include delays to elective surgeries, and to sending medical records to doctors or specialists. Telephone calls might be unanswered. Payment to DHB suppliers and employees could also be delayed depending on when a strike happened.

The stop work meeting comes amid strikes by junior doctors over proposed changes by DHBs to rostering and follows last year's pay settlement for nursing staff.

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