No pay rise for non-DHB staff

27/08/2008

Oamaru Hospital support workers are missing out on a pay rise because the Ministry of Health doesn’t recognise that staff at smaller hospitals aren’t employed by District Health Boards.

Last year the Ministry of Health provided DHBs with funds to boost wages for low paid staff but gave only enough to pay DHBs’ direct employees.

Unfortunately for Oamaru Hospital staff they are not direct employees of a DHB. They are employed by Compass Group which is contracted by Waitaki District Health Services and WDHS is contracted and funded by the Otago District Health Board.

This is not the first time Oamaru staff have been disadvantaged by the Ministry providing funds for DHB employees but not those at hospitals contracted to a DHB. Nurses missed out on Multi Employer Collective Agreement rates for the same reason in 2003.

I was deputy chair of WDHS at the time and remember the frustration as we wanted to work with staff to pressure the ODHB, ministry and government for more money. But the Employment relations Act stopped us from talking to staff directly, so we had to work through the union which called a strike.

Eventually the ODHB agreed to fund WDHS to meet MECA rates for nurses even though it wasn’t funded by the Ministry. However, someone didn’t learn the lesson and now Oamaru support staff – cleaners, kitchen workers, orderlies and security – are missing out on pay rises given to people doing the same jobs at other hospitals.

The Ministry doesn’t appear to realise how health services work down here. When what was then Healthcare Otago announced it was pulling out of rural hopsitals a decade ago the Waitaki District Council leaped into the breach and formed a Local Authority Trading Enterprise – WDHS – to run the hospital. It’s the only LATE operating a hospital and it’s been doing so successfully for 10 years except for the on-going problem over funding because the ODHB doesn’t get additional funds for staff not in its direct employment.

The charitable interpretation is that it’s bureaucratic blindness which prevents the Ministry from understanding that we do things differently in the provinces. A more cynical view is that its political ideology which won’t accept that publicly funded private hospitals work. But whatever the cause its the staff who miss out on pay increases.


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