Hospital technologists are fed up with being paid less than administrative staff

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File image. A radiology booking clerk now starts at $67,000, while a technician in charge of scans starts at $57,000, despite being required to have a degree.
Photo: 123RF

Technologists responsible for doing CT and other scans in hospitals are annoyed that they are paid $10,000 less than hospital staff.

A technologist has a degree — and the associated debt — but starts at $57,000, compared to the recently increased $67,000 starting salary for a radiology booking associate.

They have been left in the wake after administrative staff and hospital administrators were given increases of up to 40 percent in June under a pay equality deal.

“This is crazy,” a medical imaging technologist (MIT) told RNZ.

“We provide radiology coverage 24/7, but our administration team is all done with work by 5:30 p.m. leaving a limited group of MITs working, which can be the busiest shift, while doing all our own administrative work.”

This included phone calls, imaging to other hospitals, and answering questions and inquiries from doctors.

It will likely be many months before the technologists get their own pay equality deal.

Meanwhile, the wage gap exacerbated the health worker shortage, said the technologists, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“It’s a bull’s eye for new graduates to be paid less than someone who doesn’t even have a degree,” said a second.

“My boys work weekends, nights, hang out with the drunks and disorderly, for $10,000 less.

“I find it horrible.”

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They may soon be able to get partial exemption through a separate regular wage offer that, if they accept it, would increase each pay tie by $5,700 — with retroactive increases for several months.

However, government sector wage moderation held back, said the national secretary of the Apex union (Association of Professional and Executive Employees), Dr. Deborah Powell.

“We struggled to get a reasonable offer for the MITs to reflect the recruitment and retention problems they have because Te Whatu Ora is being held back by wage moderation,” Powell said.

In June, an equal pay agreement for hospital administration and administrative staff was reached with the now-defunct district health boards.

It resulted in wage increases of up to 40 percent.

The deal “brought tears to my eyes,” said a trade union representative from the Public Service Association (PSA).

But it took three years to get the deal done — and another 28 types of jobs that are mostly female-occupied and underpaid for decades, including MITs (and nurses who have gone to court), are still queuing for equal pay.

Apex and the PSA aim to have an equity formula in place for medical imaging technologists by April.

But that leaves weeks or even months of negotiating with Health New Zealand about the pay itself.

The technologists told RNZ that dissatisfaction had arisen since the rift with administrative staff emerged.

“To be clear, I’m not complaining about my salary, I appreciate the position I’m in,” one said.

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“It’s the conditions between the two roles that I see as the problem.

“The only way I can make more money is by taking on more responsibility – when a position opens up, or by working more shifts to get the additional pay that these shifts entail.

“Honestly, late shifts and night shifts are really hard work, not to mention working one in four weekends.

“Maybe I’ll get an administrative job and enjoy a good sleep schedule!”

PSA organizer Will Matthews said pay parity could have happened earlier, alongside the administration deal, but the government has not put the resources into it.

“MITs have had to watch for months and months as some of their colleagues get paid more.

“We want them to know that in the long run, when their claim is settled… these members won’t suffer, the results will be similar,” he said.

“We share their frustrations.”

For technologists in public hospitals, the pay cap is reduced to about $75,000 after about five years.

Specializing in MRI scans paid more “but again, you hit a pay cap after five years,” the second said.

“So they’re catching up with the administrators?”

The third said they had been at the top of the range for a few years, $75,000.

“It’s not going to tempt people into the profession.”

The other gap is that between public and private radiology.

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“I’d love to get pay parity…with the private sector MITs, but that’s not going to happen,” said a technologist who, after many years in a senior position, said they were making $10,000 less than a private technician ” who is not even a leader in an area”.

Powell said public radiology, which required a total of about 250 MITs, was about 40 percent understaffed.

“We’re looking at a public service exit,” she said.

“It’s not just that they get paid better, they also have less strenuous hours.

“Private doesn’t work 24/7. You know, there are no night shifts in the private sector.”

Apex also represents private sector technologists.

Both technologists and radiology doctors (radiologists) have repeatedly told RNZ that the better work-life balance has been one of the biggest temptations to leave the public and go to the private sector.

“It’s too much work and inappropriate facilities and poor management decisions,” said a radiologist from a regional hospital.

“Call here means in full before 10am.”

Powell said Health NZ still had only an interim leadership role on staff matters, nearly five months after it took over, and many more months since work on the change first began.

“We had a transitional authority fiddling around between the announcement and July 1…I haven’t seen anything they actually did.

“I have not received an answer as to why the transitional authority has not penetrated further.”