Pregnant health worker among protest for better pay, conditions

‘Healthcare is more than nurses and doctors’ read a picket sign at one of several protest demonstrations by Allied Health workers held across the country on Friday.

The Public Service Association (PSA), which represents 10,000 practitioners from 70 different professions, is calling for Health Minister Andrew Little and the country’s district health boards to offer workers better pay and fair working conditions.

Allied Health workers include the likes of lab technicians, pharmacists, occupational therapists and dozens more.

“We’re the sort of unsung heroes, we’re the backbone of the DHB because we don’t get all the acknowledgements, we don’t get the little cards that get written by patients that the doctors and the nurses do,” North Shore Hospital dietitian Caryne McKeand told 1News.

She is due to have her second child next week, taking to the picket line while pregnant, and wants better maternity pay.

“I’m going to end up with half a year where I’m getting nothing at all, no pay at all to be able to support a family,” she said.

“With the cost of living at the moment and fuel and just groceries – I’m a dietitian so fruit and vegetables, the cost of fruit and veg – it’s ridiculous.”

A strike was supposed to be held on Friday, but the Employment Court upheld an injunction by DHBs preventing it, PSA organiser Will Matthews said.

“They [the workers] got dragged through a heavy-handed legal process to have that strike injuncted, but they’ve shown up this morning before work anyway to show the DHBs and the government that they won’t forget that they deserve fair pay, and an injunction’s not going to make that go away,” he told 1News from a demonstration near North Shore Hospital.

Similar demonstrations were scheduled to be held near Middlemore Hospital, Greenlane Clinical Centre and Waitakere Hospital.

Workers did not walk off the job and instead took to the roadsides before their shifts and during break times.

“They represent the core of our Covid-19 response and our healthcare system, they deserve to be treated fairly and paid fairly,” Matthews said.

Recruitment, retention and burn-out are also issues being raised with DHBs, he added.

Matthews said demonstrations will continue on Fridays around the country until an agreement is reached.

Talks between the PSA and DHBs are ongoing.