Pay push for Fiji nurses

With the backing of NZNO and an Australian nursing and midwifery union, Fiji nurses have achieved significant pay increases.

By NZNO president Grant Brookes

In April, kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku and I were invited as honoured guests to open the Fiji Nursing Association (FNA) annual general meeting (AGM). The invitation for the NZNO co- leaders to attend came after joint work last year between FNA, NZNO and the New South Wales Nurses and Midwives Association on a pay push for Fijian nurses.

It was the latest in a long series of collaborations between the Pacific nursing unions. In 2005, after New Zealand’s “fair pay” multi-employer collective agreement was successfully concluded, NZNO campaign leaders travelled to Fiji to support the FNA’s own fair pay campaign. In return, FNA leaders shared their victory and inspired delegates at the following NZNO AGM.

More recently, Fiji’s nurses had seen their pay fall behind the rising costs of living. But in 2017, backed by Australasian research and policy analysis, the successful FNA submission on a new civil service salary structure has resulted in pay increases of up to 75 per cent.

For the first time, the new pay grades recognise advanced nursing practice and specialty roles. However, they also impose five-year fixed term contracts in place of previous permanent employment.

The first roles to be graded under the new salary structure include nurse practitioners (NPs) and midwives. NP Vilisi Uluinaceva told me that the FNA’s evidence-based submission made a big difference.

Vikatoria & Vilisi IMG_6922
Nurse practitioners Vikitoria Makrava (left) and Vilisi Uluinaceva enjoy a break during the AGM.

Previously, she said, Fiji’s 40 NPs earned between FJ$26,000-28,000 (NZ$19,000-20,400) a year. “We’d been working for so long on that pay, we didn’t know how to bring this up.”

Now, she said, they’re on FJ$43,000.

Fellow NP Vikatoria Makrava explained: “When we talk about pay, we look at what we do. Many of us work in remote areas. There are no doctors. We prescribe – we do everything – and we might see more than 60 patients in a shift. The pay was not appropriate before.”

Aliote Galuvakadua is a midwife and maternity unit manager who first registered as a nurse in 1976. She said she was excited when she read the FNA submission. It has seen midwife pay go from FJ$18,000 to FJ$28,000.

Fiji Times photo (with Aliote Galuvakadua)
Midwife Aliote Galuvakadua explains what the new civil service salary structure means for her profession at the AGM (Photo/Fiji Times).

“The paper was really good”, she said. “It’s good we have been recognised as specialists after all these years. Talk of balloting for a strike is now gone.”

Other nursing specialties have either undergone, or are about to undergo job evaluations in order to be placed on the new salary scale. So far, the average pay increase for the nation’s 3360 nurses has been 14 per cent.

Meanwhile the Fiji Trades Union congress has lodged a dispute with the Ministry of Labour over the decision to place all civil servants on individual fixed-term contracts and says it plans to take the matter to the International Labour Organisation. •

First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, June 2018

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