Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Healthline workers strike for 24 hours

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People who staff the Healthline medical service went on strike for 24 hours last week. Times photo Wayne Martin

Healthcare workers in east Auckland have made their voices heard loud and clear about their value to Kiwis by going on strike for 24 hours.

They’re employed by Whakarongorau Aotearoa New Zealand Telehealth Services, which provides the Government-funded Healthline medical service.

Those who belong to the NZ Nurses Organisation Toputanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa (NZNO) and the Public Service Association (PSA) went on strike from 3pm on September 15 to 3pm the following day following a breakdown in talks with their employer over their pay.

A group of about nine workers, armed with colourful placards, spent time on Saturday morning at a location on Te Irirangi Drive.

Their placards carried messages including: “Pay your frontliners – we are lifesavers”, “Support your Healthline staff – they supported you during Covid”, and “24 hours 7 days a week – we serve the country, we deserve better pay”.

NZNO delegate Bruce Tomlinson says NZNO and PSA members have been in protracted bargaining with Whakarongorau for months.

The strike had a wide impact as the workers provide immediate support nationwide through services such as Healthline, the National Poisons Centre and Shine Domestic Abuse Helpline, among others, he says.

“We are literally the first line in many of the services we provide. We are the voice on the other side of your calls 24 hours a day, and seven days a week.”

PSA organiser Angelyse Armstrong says Whakarongorau Aotearoa staff have been calling for a pay increase that reflects the cost of living, but after months of protracted bargaining their employer has offered a “meagre” 2.5 per cent.

“Telehealth workers care deeply about their role picking up the phone when New Zealanders call for help with their well-being. This action is not taken lightly.”

Whakarongorau chief employee experience officer Anna Campbell says: “We aim to pay our staff as much as we can.

“We do all we can to recognise the enormous, literally unseen work done by our clinicians and advisors.

“We made an offer to the union that reflected what funding we have received and what we have been able to afford.

“Whakarongorau has not been funded to offer more.”

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