New Zealand Nurses Organisation primary health care nurses across Central Otago joined nationwide protests on Monday over pay parity with District Health Board nurses, who earn about 10% more.

About 14 nurses from Queenstown and Cromwell took up a post at Cromwell’s Big Fruit sculpture, and about nine nurses from Dunstan Hospital, Alexandra Family Medical and HealthCentral also protested at noon on Monday at the Alexandra War Memorial.

Queenstown Medical Centre nurse team leader Sarah Dennis said primary health care nurses were feeling undervalued compared with District Health Board (DHB) nurses, who were earning about 10% more.

Cromwell Medical Centre practice nurse team leader Susan Dickie said it was a big decision to strike, and this was the first time in 45 years she had decided to join strike action.

Primary health care nurses were often doing work to keep people out of hospital and in a small community they would get to know the whole family, often doing many hours’ followup with people.

New Zealand Nurses Organisation industrial adviser Chris Wilson said about 3200 primary nurses, reception and administration staff in more than 500 practices and accident and medical centres nationwide were part of the strike action.

‘‘The Minister of Health has encouraged us to continue using the Employment Relations Authority to help progress a settlement,’’ she said.

‘‘But we have already been to mediation with no progress because the Government will not address the funding issue at the heart of the problem.’’

Should no agreement be reached between the parties, the New Zealand Nurses Organisation had also lodged a strike notice for November 23.

‘‘They are not asking more than what is just, equal pay for work of equal value,’’ Ms Wilson said.

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