Suspended hospital IT workers picket

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IT professionals employed at Grey Base Hospital working in “scary” earthquake-prone buildings have been suspended without pay, after a partial strike over a 1.5% pay offer.
Association of Professionals and Executive Employees (Apex) said that while the West Coast District Health Board paid a premium to attract other professionals to the region, overall the IT professionals were earning 23% less than average market rates for the South Island.
For some individuals the shortfall was closer to 40%, the union said.
Meanwhile a number of the buildings had been identified as earthquake risks and had been slapped with council notices saying that people entered at their own risk.
Engineers had said they were likely to collapse, causing injury or death in a moderate quake.
“It’s scary stuff, particularly when we know Greymouth faces perhaps the highest risk of intense earthquakes along the alpine fault,” union delegate Jeremy Crestani said.
In addition, the DHB had offered only a 1.5% increase on the “current abysmal salaries, and significantly delayed after the last pay reviews at that”.
“It is with great reluctance (we strike), it shouldn’t have to come to this, but the proposal for a delayed 1.5% increase was a slap in the face.”
Mr Crestani said he loved living on the Coast, but the terms were not sustainable. The IT professionals held years of experience and know-how about the specific systems in place on the Coast.
Eight of the 11 IT staff at Grey Base Hospital are Apex members.
The partial strike action includes an intention by IT professionals not to use e-mail or electronic communication during the strike period, or make themselves available to be on call for issues outside of their normal hours. The action covered Monday and Thursday, and resulted in them being suspended for those days. It is meant to run all next week.
DHB programme director Michael Frampton said the board was currently in employment discussions with the union.
“We are not refusing to pay market rates and we are keen to continue discussions with Apex. We have expressed our desire to continue to negotiate. As this is an employment issue, it is not appropriate to give any further detail.”