A new multi-employer agreement for public hospital service workers will see cleaners, laundry workers, orderlies, catering and security staff at New Zealand’s 20 DHBs receiving pay-rises of up to 40 percent over the next three years.

Sam Jones, E tū’s National Hospitals Coordinator, described it as “a fantastic outcome” for those who have struggled with costs rising faster than their low wages.

However, the higher wages for cleaning and laundry staff in the public health sector could leave their counterparts working in private rest homes feeling short-changed.

As things stand, many cleaning, laundry and kitchen staff are already feeling hard done by thanks to the pay equity settlement, which saw their caregiver colleagues receiving substantial pay increases.

New Zealand Aged Care Association chief executive Simon Wallace says the public sector increase could exacerbate matters.

“The increase in pay for public hospital workers will inevitably put more pressure on wages and salaries in the aged residential care (ARC) sector.

“A rest home’s ability to pay increases to such staff is governed by the capped funding they receive from DHBs. The situation is compounded by very historically low unemployment (3.9%), making it challenging to recruit staff, let alone retain them.”

Some providers have started lifting wages for their domestic staff. Oceania, for example, has lifted rates by six per cent, and is talking about the Living Wage.

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