Support fair pay for New Zealand's aged care nurses

Our Fair Pay petition for aged care nurses has reached the target of 15,000 signatures over the month of June 2020  – with a tally of more than 15,300. Thank you to everyone who has shown their support for this important issue helping share the petition and encourage others to sign.

The Fair Pay petition handover, 6 August 2020.

On 6 August, Chief Executive Simon Wallace and Nursing Leadership Group Chair Frances Hughes presented the fair pay petition, with over 15,300 signatures, to representatives from New Zealand’s four largest political parties.

Simon and Frances were supported by the NZACA National Office team, Anna Blackwell (Nursing Leadership Group member and owner of Cook Street Nursing Care Centre), and nurses from Te Hopai Rest Home in Wellington.

The petition was accepted by Minister for Seniors Tracey Martin, National Party Spokesperson for Seniors Tim Macindoe, Chair of the Health Select Committee Lousia Wall, and Green Party Spokesperson for Seniors Jan Logie who all spoke in support of pay parity for aged care nurses.

Did you know…

Aged care nurses earn on average $10,000 a year less than nurses who work in public hospitals.

That’s not because they are any less skilled or important, but because of years of underfunding of rest homes by successive governments and undervaluing of the care of older people.

Covid-19 has reminded us just how important our nurses are. Thanks to their skill and leadership more than 99% of rest homes in New Zealand had zero Covid-19 cases.

Why are aged care nurses special? 

  • They care for the health and wellbeing of more than 36,000 of our most vulnerable people in 650 rest homes around New Zealand.
  • They are expert clinicians, managing multiple complex health conditions, as well as palliative and end of life care – all without the support of the clinical teams available in hospitals.
  • They are team leaders in charge of health care workers who tend to the needs of our most fragile
  • They bring humanity to healthcare, building genuinely loving relationships with people in their care and friendships with their whanau.
  • They love what they do.

Why are they not paid the same as nurses who work in public hospitals?

Nurses who work in aged care have been undervalued for many years, a symptom of the historic underfunding of rest homes.

The amount of pay aged care nurses receive is directly related to the amount of funding rest homes  receive from District Health Boards – a per bed, per day rate based on the level of care each resident is assessed for by DHBs when they admit them to rest homes – standard, hospital or psychogeriatric level care.

Losing nurses when we need them most

In 2018, the Government, very rightly, improved pay and conditions for nurses who work in public hospitals in recognition of their value. DHBs were also required to recruit 500 more nurses. As a result, since then rest homes have continued to lose valued nurses to District Health Boards seeking better pay – which rest home providers are not funded to match.

Those rest home providers that can and do pay their nurses more have a retirement village to cross-subsidise their rest home offering. But contrary to popular opinion, rest homes are not profitable businesses. They rely wholly or largely on capped Government funding and run on the smell of an oily rag.

Indeed, the sector is a broad church with a range of ownership structures, from corporate and private to trust, religious, welfare-run organisations and not-for-profit entities.

Time to value aged care nurses and ensure the sector is funded to pay them what they are worth in parity with their peers who work in public hospitals.

How much is needed to fund pay parity for aged care nurses?

The cost to Government of funding the sector to ensure pay parity for the 5,000 aged care nurses in New Zealand – an increase of at least $10,000 per annum per nurse, would be around $70 million.

Considering Budget 2020 injected $4.37 billion into District Health Boards – we reckon there’s plenty to go round.

Fair Pay in the Media

6 August 2020: Media release – Aged care nurses deliver fair pay petition to Parliament | View here

25 June 2020: Northland Age – Aged care nurses appeal for equity | View here 

22 June 2020: NZ Herald – Petition for aged care fair pay hits 10,000| View here

18 June 2020: Media release – Petition for aged care nurse fair pay hits 10,000 | View here

11 June 2020: RNZ Checkpoint – Aged care faces crisis as nurses paid less than DHB peers | Listen here

11 June 2020: RNZ Checkpoint – ‘We play a huge role’ in NZ health – Aged Care Association boss | Listen here

5 June 2020: Stuff – Aged-care nurses fed up with wage disparity launch campaign for fair pay | View here

5 June 2020: Media release – Campaign highlights pay inequity for aged care nurses | View here