Psychologists’ and DHBs to Go to Facilitation Following a Five Month Industrial Dispute.
• Psychologists dispute with DHBs over pay and staffing is in fifth month.
• Employment Relations Authority has accepted an application for urgent facilitated bargaining.
• In the next two weeks thirty-eight strike notices will be issued around the country for a range of partial and full strikes by psychologists.
The protracted industrial dispute between 600 psychologists represented by APEX,1 and the country’s District Health Boards, has been accepted by the Employment Relations Authority for urgent facilitated bargaining. Both APEX and the DHBs supported the application to facilitation, a process whereby the Employment Relations Authority has the power to arbitrate on bargaining issues without binding the parties.
“We have been unable to break the impasse with DHBs over key union claims to close the pay gap with Corrections psychologists and commit DHBs to ensure adequate levels of psychologists staffing our health service. After three months of strike action the time has come for us to ask the Employment Relations Authority for their assistance to resolve a dispute which is of national importance,” said Annmaree Kingi, consultant clinical psychologist at Canterbury DHB and APEX psychology division secretary.
The 2018/2019 New Zealand Health Survey confirms psychological distress is a widespread health and social problem with 8.2% of adults having experienced high or very high levels of psychological distress in the four weeks prior to the survey, up from 4.5% in 2011/12. At the same time the psychologist workforce crisis is accelerating. For example, there is only one psychologist now working in the adult community mental health teams at Capital and Coast DHB.
“Psychologists have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new wave of industrial action across the country to begin in December but we are hoping that facilitated bargaining allows us to resolve our dispute before Christmas and settle a collective agreement that can attract psychologists back into DHB services to address the lengthening waiting lists for assessment and treatment,” said Dr Amber Barry, consultant clinical psychologist at Midcentral DHB and APEX delegate.
Strike notices issued from today will withdraw psychologists at different DHBs from work on forensic court reports, multi-disciplinary team meetings, providing psychometric testing and supervising intern psychologists.
Annmaree Kingi and Amber Barry are available for comment on (09) 526 0280.
1 Psychologists, including clinical psychologists and health psychologists, are employed in District Health Boards across a range of mental health services including forensic services, community mental health, addiction and inpatient services. Psychologists also work in physical health services including child health, cancer, cardiac, spinal, diabetes and older persons’ health.