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2014 Workforce Influenza Immunisation Coverage Rates by DHBs

 Influenza is a significant public health issue in New Zealand. Each year it has a huge impact on our community, with 10-20% of New Zealanders infected. Influenza will typically put you out of action for a week, sometimes longer with symptoms including a sore throat, runny nose and eyes, headaches, aching muscles and joints, fever, cold, sweats, chesty cough and a lack of energy. Some infected people become so ill that they need hospital care, and some people die. In 2013, there were 6 deaths as a result of Influenza. All 6 people who died were pregnant women, a particularly vulnerable group.

Influenza has a financial impact, particularly in workplaces, and can potentially overwhelm both primary care and hospital services during winter epidemics. Healthcare workers, by virtue of their occupation, are at an increased risk of contracting Influenza and may transmit the infection to susceptible contacts with the potential for serious outcomes. The Influenza virus spreads very quickly from person to person through touch as well as through the air and you can transmit the virus even before you know you are sick. It is a matter of medical ethics and human safety that where possible all Health Care Workers get immunised in order to both be protected and to protect others from Influenza.

Admittedly, immunisation (the flu jab) is not a perfect remedy but it is the best defence against Influenza that we have. All DHBs in New Zealand have offered in the past (and continue to offer) the Influenza immunisation to their employees (and non-employees working in DHBs) at no cost.

If you are a healthy person who rarely gets sick – do you still need to get immunised? The answer is yes: it has been recommended that every fit and healthy person should get the flu jab in order to protect not just themselves but also to protect others in our community. Even if you become infected with the flu and you can ‘get over it’, it is still important to get immunised because you could infect others (remember that even before you know you have the flu you are infectious) and not everyone may be as healthy as you are!

The Influenza coverage rates for Health Care Workers across all DHBs (and in each occupational discipline) as a whole have increased steadily over the years. However, despite these overall results, figures show that (in 2014) in some DHBs there was only a very slight increase in coverage rates and in some DHBs there was a decrease in Influenza coverage rates.

More Health Care Workers need to be vaccinated in all DHBs (to at least 80%). We are currently undertaking a survey in order to ascertain why it is that some Health Care Workers decide not to get the Influenza immunisation. The findings collated from this survey will hopefully make clear the reasons why some choose not to get immunised and help identify whether these reasons pertain to a particular DHB locality or are common in the wider community.

Influenza coverage rates for Allied Staff by DHB (2012 – 2014)

Newsletter Graph

During 2014 the total Influenza immunisation coverage rate for Allied staff is 57% compared to 56% during 2013. Northland DHB, Wairarapa DHB and Waitemata DHB had the lowest coverage rates (under 40%) for Allied Staff in 2014. Canterbury DHB, Counties Manakau DHB, South Canterbury DHB and Whanganui DHB had the highest coverage rates (over 70%) for Allied Staff in 2014. Why is there a difference on the basis of DHB?

To see more click Underthemicroscope Issue32

Electronic Balloting

NZMLWU is now undertaking balloting via electronic means through Survey Monkey. This is a change to the traditional postal balloting process. Ratification ballots and strike ballots are just some of the types of electronic ballots you may receive in the near future.

So far, the electronic balloting system (already in full swing with RDA members) has resulted in a higher response rate compared to those received when using the traditional postal balloting system. Unlike a postal ballot, an electronic ballot can be activated at a set time on a particular day and the recipients can receive it and vote almost instantaneously. Responses to an electronic ballot can be easily tracked (in terms of when people (in the collective sense) are voting and the percentage of votes for and against).

We have identified some interesting points as a result of carrying out recent electronic balloting. For example, the response rate is highest on the day that the electronic ballot is activated. On average, more than half of the total ballot responses (53%) are received on the first day the ballot is open (this is irrespective of the time of day the ballot is activated) – with the initial responses coming in within minutes of the ballot being activated. In addition, activating a reminder or second email prompts an increase in response rate.

Also, within the first hour of a ballot becoming active the percentage of initial (within the first 30 minutes) responses, either in favour or not in favour, are highly indicative of the final result (irrespective of how long the ballot is open for). We have found that these initial results remain consistent throughout the entire time the ballot is active (apart from a minor shift in percentage by around 2 or 3 percent at either end).

NZMLWU will run a test ballot initially for members before activating any formal ballot. It is important that we have an up to date private (non-DHB) email address and current employer details for you in our system so that you are able to participate in the electronic ballot process. It would be helpful if you made contact with us here at the union office to provide the above information if you think your details might not be up to date!

When to give redundancy money back…?

 This question has recently been considered in the context of a couple of cases which arose where an employee, having been made redundant from a DHB, applied and was offered appointment to another position at the same, or another DHB.  The question was then posed – will you pay your redundancy back? And the implication – that if you wouldn’t you wouldn’t get the job.  The answer to the question however, in short, is “no”.

Redundancy compensation is paid for loss of employment and loss of employment related entitlements including service recognition which is given up.  This is why redundancy is calculated on the basis of employee’s length of service. Redundancy compensation is notably NOT paid to provide financial security between jobs for a person made redundant.

It was the view of NBAG, when they considered this issue, that DHBs should not discriminate against employees who have been made redundant (and received compensation) nor should such folk be “barred” from reemployment simply because they have received redundancy compensation.  Bottom line; anyone made redundant should receive the same consideration as any other applicant.

DHBs will look to the State Services Commission guidelines on Redeployment and Redundancy Compensation which counsels fair dealings, that a single inflexible approach will not necessarily meet all the needs of every situation and that sound judgment will need to be exercised.  There may for instance be a scenario, albeit rare, where compensation should be paid back – usually we might add where the redundancy should not have happened in the first place.Such an example would be where an individual has declined redeployment to a similar position (declining by the way is usually not an option) and is subsequent to application, appointed to that now vacant but previously redeployable, position.  If all service is reinstated there may be grounds for some compensation repayment.  In such unusual scenario’s, you had best make contact with us ASAP for advice.

Finally on the issue of “but it is public money” – no it isn’t.  Having made the decision to terminate an employee by way of redundancy, redundancy compensation (just like wages) becomes that employee’s money (of which that employee is contractually entitled to).



Is within term, the National Laboratory Engagement Group (NLEG) has been tasked with issues raised in bargaining but not addressed by the 2014 settlement. The following is a progress report of these new workstreams:

  •  9hr break trial – 5 months of data has been collected to identify if any cost is involved in providing 9 hour breaks after call-backs between the hours of 2400 to 0500 (this applies to those employers who do not currently provide this provision). A report will be provided to the National Laboratory Engagement group .
  • Supervising Technicians – “ the projects brief is to accurately defining these roles and introduce an agreed salary structure/scale to formalise these current arrangements.”• Mortuary Technicians –The project is to ensure that the salary scale and progression criteria for Mortuary Technicians as set out in the MECA adequately reflect the current scope /duties of these positions. A working party has gathered information and a report including recommendations will be presented at the next NLEG meeting.
  • Management of fatigue– the purpose of this workstream is to ensure health and safety of members. This workstream is still in its early stages with information being collected to advise next steps.
  • Aotea Pathology Their current Collective Employment Agreement (CEA) expired at the end of November 2014. Their Advocate and delegates are still in the process of bargaining for renewal of their CEA.

Click here to download your copy of the Underthemicroscope Issue32 .

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