3 Sep 2010

Offer to radiographers sensible, says Key

9:37 pm on 3 September 2010

Prime Minister John Key says striking radiographers should take what he calls a sensible settlement of about 2% to settle their pay claim.

A three-day strike by 55 radiographers Auckland City Hospital and Starship Children's began at 8am on Friday. Radiographers are also set to strike nationwide for 24 hours on Tuesday.

Mr Key says the Government does not have a lot of spare resources, and with inflation low he would hope radiographers would see sense and accept the offer. Police, doctors and nurses have all reached successful settlements, he says.

However, Bernadette Gourley, a delegate from the APEX union which represents the radiographers, said pay was no longer the issue, only terms and conditions such as time in lieu for professional development.

The union and district health boards are blaming each other for the strike. Five hours of talks on Thursday failed to reach an agreement.

Board spokesman David Meates says the union representing striking radiographers was hard to deal with. "There's a particular set of unions that seem to be hell-bent on industrial action."

Mr Meates said the low-level industrial action has had an impact on the care of thousands of patients.

Ms Gourley says it is the boards that are inflexible.

She says the negotiations were hamstrung because the boards told the union it could respond to its claim only next week.

She said boards informed the unions that no matter how small the offer they would need to make to settle the dispute, they first have to go back to chief executives and a strategy group.

She says radiographers will not put patients at risk and will work during the strike period in an emergency.

The Labour Party says the Government needs to take action to deal with strike action in the health sector.

Spokesperson Ruth Dyson says Health Minister Tony Ryall, is partly to blame for the impasse because he signs off on the health budget, which determines what health boards can offer workers.

Mr Ryall says workers have to accept responsible and affordable settlements, and three-quarters of the health workforce have already done so.