17 Oct 2009

Hospital workers to go on strike over pay freeze

6:56 am on 17 October 2009

Hospital workers protesting against having their pay rates frozen have voted to go on strike.

The Service and Food Workers Union says it has been trying to negotiate a pay rise for cleaners, orderlies, kitchen workers and cooks for the past six months.

On Friday, union members voted to support a strike of up to 24 hours in November. A date has not yet been set.

About 2700 workers held protests around the country on Friday, including 100 outside Auckland Hospital. Cleaner Matalena Hiku told Radio New Zealand many workers are struggling to pay for basics such as food and clothing for their families.

Service and Food Workers Union northern region secretary Jill Ovens says while prices are rising, wages are not, and it is unfair that district health boards are not offering increases.

Ms Ovens says a strike could still be averted if district health boards and contractors show a willingness to address the issue.

The DHBs' negotiation spokesperson, Craig Climo, says most union members will get automatic annual pay increases.

Mr Climo says the workers are paid well compared with similar workers in other sectors.