Nelson disability support workers to strike after employer refuses to budge on pay
Growing frustration with an inadequate pay offer has prompted 240 disability support workers in the Nelson region to stage strikes over three days this month.
"We’re just fed up with the stubborn approach of Te Whatu Ora which is refusing to budge on what we feel is an insulting pay offer," said Kate Davis, organiser for the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.
The 240 Live Life Disability Support Workers who are PSA members work in 64 residential homes, supporting 350 people most of whom require 24-hour care.
Annette Taylor has been a support worker for nearly 40 years working across the health sector in Nelson.
"We don’t want to do this, but Te Whatu Ora is offering us a pittance and we’re worth more. We’re supporting very vulnerable people and yet they’re just not listening to us.
"My colleagues have families to feed and bills to pay, and some are working more than 140 hours a fortnight to make ends meet and fill the staff shortages. Te Whatu Ora can’t attract staff because the hourly rate is so poor."
The current offer is still only $400 as a one-off payment. Union members in the West Coast employed as support workers by Te Whatu Ora have just been offered and accepted $2500 in one off payments. Davis said the members want a similar one-off payment, and extra pay for weekend and night work.
"This is having a huge impact," said Kate Davis. "Poor pay means Te Whatu Ora is struggling to fill vacancies. Some weekend positions have been vacant for two years and that means our members are all working longer hours. They’re just exhausted.
"Our members have never had to strike before so it’s incredibly sad that we have to take this action. The last thing they want to do is to inconvenience the people they support, but workers have reached the end of their tether," said Davis.
The strikes will take place on Wednesday 15 March from 5pm- 6pm, Friday 17 March 9pm- 10pm, and Sunday 19 March 8am-9am.