National 17 August 2021
Kia ora

It was fantastic to speak directly with so many of you during our recent stop work meetings. Hearing your ideas and experiences firsthand was useful. As you are aware, embedded staffing shortages and significant acute workload pressures are boiling over into industrial action by our nursing and midwifery colleagues this week.
We hope the employers and the government pay careful attention to concerns about the terrible ongoing impact of health workforce shortages on patients and staff.  We know that fair pay and safe staffing are critical ingredients to build a system that delivers quality health care to all.

Second nurses’ strike - 19 August

As we continue to push DHBs to come back to the table with a suitable offer in our MECA negotiations, nurses and midwives are about to go on strike after they rejected the latest offer from the DHBs.
It’s the second time nurses have taken strike action in the past two months.
Nurses will strike for eight hours on Thursday 19 August from 11am-7pm, while midwives will walk off the job for 12 hours between 8am-8pm.
We know this will impact on your day-to-day work. We wanted to repeat the guidance we put together on issues which could arise during the strike period.

Should all elective services be cancelled?
Yes. Even where staff may be available to provide a service, back up for services may be adversely affected by the strike. DHBs are rescheduling electives in advance so the wards are as empty as possible on the day. The day should be planned to be like a non-festive Christmas Day.

Should SMOs volunteer to work additional hours during the strike?
This is your call. You cannot be compelled to cover the work of a striking nurse. The life preserving services (LPS) agreements that your DHB will have with NZNO should ensure that patients are protected from permanent harm or threat to life.

What would be a fair rate of pay for any hours beyond your normal hours you agree to do?
Our recommendation is that additional work arising from the strike should be paid for as follows:

  • a minimum T2 of your normal hourly rate for any work requested by the employer which is work in addition to (either before or after) normal hours of work for that day
  • a minimum T2 of your normal hourly rate for any clinical work requested where the SMO would otherwise have been on non-clinical duties, and the non-clinical duties have not been re-scheduled. This rate is inclusive of normal pay, so is in effect T1 in addition to normal pay

Should SMOs do nurses’ work?
No. DHBs and NZNO will have agreements for the provision of life preserving services (LPS) to protect lives and avoid permanent harm.
However, sometimes the reality can be messy especially where both doctors and nurses might undertake similar work as part of their normal duties. These duties need to be within your scope of practice (this is the position of the Medical Council). You need to be familiar with and trained in the relevant procedures. Do not do anything you are not comfortable with.

Show support
Many of you will want to show support for your nursing colleagues. You can do this in any number of ways, such as wearing a badge, talking with patients about the reasons they are taking industrial action, joining the picket line before or after your workday (or during a break).

Post-stopworks survey

Thank you once again for attending the stopwork meeting in your DHB. You should have received our e-mailed survey asking how you want us to proceed in the MECA negotiations and what types of actions you would support to get a fair settlement. It’s important we get feedback from as many members as possible. If you haven’t seen the survey, please get in touch on

Letters to Ministers

At the stopwork meetings there were discussions about how SMOs can put political pressure on the government and raise public awareness about health workforce shortages, SMO workloads, clinical frustrations and the impact on services and patient care.
Writing a letter to the Health Minister Andrew Little or his associates, and/or your local MP, sharing your personal frustrations is one way to do that. If you need inspiration, one of your colleagues has already sent a letter to Minister Little which you can read here

Here is a list of ministerial emails.  

Health Minister Andrew Little –
Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall -
Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare -

Media opinion pieces

Writing opinion pieces in local or national media can also be effective. A few weeks ago one of our members wrote a strong piece for Stuff on the fragility of ICU provision – read it here. It painted a clear picture of under-resourcing and the effect on staff, patients, and our health system. If you would like to write something, or tell your story, or need the right media contact, please contact Liz Brown in our comms team,

Next round of JCCs

Just a reminder that the third and final round of JCC meetings for the year gets underway next month. There will be a lot on the agenda including discussions on the move to Health NZ, updates on the MECA talks and a look at ASMS research on mental health and our Creating Solutions conference publication. Look out for details about your JCC soon. It will be great to see you there. You can find JCC times and dates here. If you want to get JCC agendas and updates write to to sign up.

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with any issues, concerns, questions or feedback.

Ngā mihi

Sarah Dalton