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Mental health and addiction community workforce 'side-lined' by DHB nurses pay equity deal

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Community-based mental health, addiction support workers and clinical staff are struggling to understand why they won’t be receiving the same pay rise as their DHB Nursing and mental health assistant counterparts.

The proposed pay equity settlement deal, announced by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) is set to increase salaries for nurses and healthcare assistants working for DHBs around the country. It’s hoped the deal will redress the decades of underpayment of this predominantly female workforce.

However, the NZNO deal is only on offer to DHB employed nurses and excludes support staff and clinical workers employed within the mental and addictions non-governmental organisations (NGO) and community sector.

Platform Chairperson, Sally Pitts-Brown says the deal is richly deserved by DHB employees, however it doesn’t recognise the critical work being done in the community by non NGOs like theirs, "Our specialist mental health and addiction support workers and clinical staff are working with individuals to support them in managing their own recovery and journey to wellbeing. They have been recognised as an essential workforce through the COVID-19 response who work long hours, in testing circumstances. They deserve equal remuneration for that."

This proposed deal will leave them worse off and that is even before we get commitment from the Government to agree fully funded future wage increase for support workers once the care and support (pay equity) settlement act 2017 comes to an end on 30 June 2022.

Sally Pitts-Brown says the deal has the potential to erode the mental health and addiction sector and it is disappointing that there is no clear plan to address pay equality for NGO workers, "There is already a significant gap in what the community sector is funded for salaries of their clinical workforce and the ability to match DHB salaries or other Government agencies. We rely on increased Government funding to close this gap. Any pay equity decision made in isolation from the rest of the health and disability sector will create a damaging snowball effect on mental health and addiction NGOs, who cannot match the salaries of the DHBs."

Mental health and addiction NGO services are already battling to retain and employ staff; as fatigue increases, overseas employment or other Government agencies tempt many away. These services need further Government funding to ensure they can continue to run safely and to a high standard.

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