Up to 3000 disability support workers could walk off the job after giving formal strike notice.
The strike notice was handed to IDEA Services this week, setting the strike date and time for 8.30am to 9.30am on Thursday April 27.
But it might not be a straight-forward strike as E tu union hopes to discuss alternative solutions with IDEA Services next week.
IDEA Services, which supports people with learning disabilities, has been in the national spotlight after announcing cuts, which could affect about 20 per cent of its clients.
READ MORE: * Service cuts affected vote to strike * Cuts could ‘break up’ a family * IDEA Services consults on transition * Cuts could open doors for new providers
Before the service withdrawal announcement, support staff started meeting across the country to consider strike action after unsuccessful pay and condition negotiations.
IDEA Services chief operating officer Janine Stewart said, in an emailed statement, the organisation had plans in place to ensure no one was adversely affected by the strike.
“We continue to meet with the union in good faith with the hope of reaching collective agreements,” Stewart said.
“We continue to await a pay equity announcement that we expect will enable us to make a pay offer to staff.”
E tu union advocate Alistair Duncan anticipated up to 3000 support workers would be preparing for the hour long symbolic strike.
“You’ve got a work force saying, by an enormous majority of voting staff, it’s not good enough.”
Staff had voiced their concerns about causing any interference with their clients, Duncan said.
They requested a shorter strike, with plenty of notice given, so there would be minimal inconvenience for clients, he said.
But Duncan did not rule out alternative solutions.
The union and IDEA Services planned to meet with an industrial meditator to discuss whether any proposals would be made, he said.
“We hope the prospect of a one hour symbolic strike is enough to bring IDEA back to the negotiating table next week and to make some offers to settle a dispute which has been running for seven months,” Duncan said.
“If you think about the issues that have come up within that seven months, we’re still waiting on the equal pay settlement and now a big chunk of that work force is involved in a restructure. It’s a perfect storm, but it’s very much of IDEA’s own making.”
IHC New Zealand human resources general manager Ross Maden said IDEA Services had been negotiating with the union for two new collective employment agreements since October, 2016.
“We appreciate this has created uncertainty and is unsettling for our staff,” he said.
Pay equity was the major reason for the delay as the Government and unions were yet to reach a settlement for the disability sector, Maden said.
“This is frustrating our attempts to settle our collective employment agreements.”
Ministry of Health disability support services group manager Toni Atkinson said the Ministry was being “well informed” by IDEA Services of its plans to cover industrial action to ensure minimal impact on clients.
Earlier this week, IDEA Services announced it was in talks with two disability support service providers, HealthCare NZ and Spectrum Care, to cover it for home support and facility-based respite services.
Disability support provider Explore will pick up the Autism family education and therapy programmes.