Wed, Jan 31, 2024 12:00 PM

Lab strikes loom over failed pay talks


Paula Hulburt

Laboratory staff at Wairau Hospital will be taking strike action again after last ditch efforts to secure pay parity failed.

Union staff at the hospital based Awanui Labs (formerly Medlab South) and from the blood collection rooms on Maxwell Road will take strike action on February 5.

The move comes as fed-up staff accuse Awanui CEO Anoop Singh of not taking their concerns seriously.

The lab workers' union, APEX, says the company was paying 30 per cent less than Te Whatu Ora-run labs.

“Apex goes to the table in good faith but that doesn't seem to be reciprocated by Awanui management,” a spokesperson says.

“At the last meeting in Wellington Anoop Singh, the CEO, didn't even have an offer to present to the delegates.

“Apex had to suggest an offer that possibly could be accepted.

“This led to the employer saying that those around the table could not make that decision and would have to refer it to the board again.

“If that's the case, why can't a member of the board be at these meetings?”

Awanui Labs operates all the community and hospital medical laboratories in the South Island and the Wellington region and is 95 per cent publicly funded.

But it is the shareholders who benefit most, not staff or patients, the spokesperson says.

“Awanui are more interested in paying the shareholders than the staff.”

In June 2023, APEX met Awanui management looking for a 23 per cent raise. This would cover a catch up with Te Whatu Ora counterparts in the lab sector, plus a cost of living pay rise.

In later meetings the issue of pay parity with newly settled pay equity rates at Te Whatu Ora was taken off the table, the spokesperson says.

“Awanui would need to get funding from Te Whatu Ora; talks are ongoing for that.

An experienced laboratory technician moving from an Awanui lab to a public lab would receive a 30 per cent increase to do the same job.

A phlebotomist, the person who takes blood samples both at collection centres, on the wards and at home visits, is paid $23.50 an hour after two years training.

Lab scientists and technicians have already carried out several strikes as the dispute escalated and Apex may now be looking towards seeking a recommendation from the Employment Relations Authority.

Life Preserving Services Agreements have been made for those hospital labs where a union member must be available during the strike in the event of a life, limb, or possibility of permanent disability or a medical crisis event.

Marlborough App Logo
Marlborough App
Marlborough App is owned by Top South Media. a locally owned media company.