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By Rowan Quinn, RNZ News health correspondent

Striking New Zealand health workers have picketed around the country, saying they are fed up with being underpaid and undervalued.

About 10,000 allied health staff who work at district health boards have walked off the job for 24 hours, with rolling demonstrations.

They are health workers who are not doctors or nurses.

One of the first pickets has been outside Hutt Hospital, with workers chanting and holding signs, and getting lots of beeps of support from passing cars.

Social worker Lorraine Tetley said her team was losing social workers to higher paid jobs in the public sector.

Those left behind felt undervalued, she said.

“They’re essential workers who work on the frontline during the pandemic. Every day we work with risk and we work with vulnerable families and we’re not paid fairly for the work we do,” she said.

Working hard under covid
Dental therapist Char Blake said they had been working really hard, especially after the lockdown and covid restrictions.

“We love caring for patients but is just really hard to pay for things with the price of things going up and we’ve waited 18 months for a pay rise,” Blake said.

Today’s allied health workers strike. Video: RNZ News

Dental assistant for the School Dental Service Faye Brown said she was paid just over the minimum wage.

Her service was six people short, and in danger of losing more.

“It can be quite stressful at times — we have to do more than we are supposed to at times. We don’t want to let our patients down,” she said.

Jane McWhirter tests newborn babies’ hearing and says she is earning the same amount as her 16-year-old daughter who works at Dominoes Pizza.

She says even though she is training on the job, she is doing important, skilled work and she and her colleagues deserves better.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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