New Zealand nurses accept 12.5% pay offer following one-day strike

Deal includes safe staffing agreement, $2,000 payment and three 3% pay rises for all nurses

Regulated safe staffing levels and pay increases of 12.5% are being introduced for nurses in New Zealand, following their first strike in nearly 30 years.

Nurses striking in Wellington, New Zealand, in July for better pay and safe staffing.
Picture: Getty

Members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) voted to accept an agreement brokered by the union and the state-run district health boards.

Healthcare in the UK and New Zealand: a comparison

New Zealand

  • The New Zealand health system is a combination of public and private provision
  • District health boards provide free health services to New Zealand citizens and permanent residents
  • Other services, such as GPs, require co-payments but are subsidised
  • The public health system employs 25,108 full-time equivalant (FTE) nurses, as of March 2017, according to the Ministry of Health
  • Spending on health accounted for 7.07% of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017, figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show


  • The NHS is free at the point of delivery to UK citizens and those with indefinite leave to remain
  • Private healthcare exists, and is provided largely on an insurance-based system
  • Overseas residents (from outside the European Economic Area) who apply for a UK visa of at least six months pay a health surcharge to cover NHS care
  • In England, the health service employs 319,183 nurses as of April 2018, according to NHS Digital figures
    Scotland employs 56,933 FTE nurses, as of March 2018, according to the Information Services Division, National Services Scotland
    Wales employs 21,265 nurses, as of September 2017, Welsh Government figures show
    Northern Ireland employs 15,112 FTE nurses and midwives, as of March 2018, according to the Department of Health
  • UK government spending on health accounted for 7.59% of GDP in 2017, according to the OECD

The union says a ‘significant majority’ of its 30,000 eligible members voted for the deal, which includes:

  • A one off payment of $2,000 (£1,041*) for every nurse.
  • Three 3% pay increases, plus an additional pay step, which will see registered nurses’ salaries grow by 12.5% by August 2019.

The agreement means a newly qualified nurse in New Zealand will earn $54,034 (£28,141*) from August 2019.

In comparison, a newly qualified band 5 nurse in England will earn £23,023 in 2019 under the recently negotiated pay deal.

Safe staffing agreement

A key element of the New Zealand negotiations was a safe staffing accord between the NZNO, health boards and the Ministry of Health.

By June 2021, all boards’ rosters and budgets will be created using a safe staffing tool to determine the appropriate staff number, skill mix and working pattern to meet patient need.

Furthermore, the government has agreed to provide $38 million (£19.79 million*) to recruit more nurses and $200 million (£104.16 million*), to be divided among the country’s health boards, to recruit expert nursing staff.

The safe staffing agreement and pay deal follow a 24-hour strike by nursing staff in New Zealand in July.

Speaking after the deal was agreed, NZNO president Grant Brookes said: ‘We are very proud that the collective voice of our members was heard throughout the country and drove up investment in the public health system and workforce.’

Some not covered by pay deal

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern also welcomed the agreement with nurses. ‘This government is committed to nurses; we value the work they do and we look forward to working closely over the coming years to build a better health system,’ she said.

However, the fight for better pay and conditions for nurses in the country is not over, with the union now looking at conditions for New Zealand nurses not covered by the agreement, such as those employed in primary and aged care.

The RCN is currently campaigning for safe nurse staffing to be enshrined in law across the UK. Wales is the only UK country with safe staffing legislation already in place. 

*Currency conversions correct as of August 2018

Further information

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