Retaining unity essential: NZNO's newest industrial adviser introduces himself and ponders the challenges ahead.
Subject: Nurses (Employment)
Consultants (Beliefs, opinions and attitudes)
Consultants (Practice)
Author: Lennox, Mark
Pub Date: 10/01/2010
Publication: Name: Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand Publisher: New Zealand Nurses' Organisation Audience: Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2010 New Zealand Nurses' Organisation ISSN: 1173-2032
Issue: Date: Oct, 2010 Source Volume: 16 Source Issue: 9
Topic: Event Code: 530 Labor force information; 200 Management dynamics; 540 Executive changes & profiles
Product: Product Code: 8043100 Nurses NAICS Code: 621399 Offices of All Other Miscellaneous Health Practitioners
Organization: Organization: New Zealand Nurses Organisation
Geographic: Geographic Scope: New Zealand Geographic Code: 8NEWZ New Zealand
Legal: Statute: United Kingdom. Employment Relations Act 1999
Accession Number: 241179373
Full Text: This is my first industrial focus for Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, following my secondment to the district health board (DHB) industrial adviser (IA) rote left partly vacant by experienced IA, Glenda Alexander. As well as continuing in a part-time IA role, she has become the organising operations manager.

I am a registered nurse (RN), married with two children. I have previously worked for Counties Manukau DHB in the paediatric areas of ward and acute assessment unit, a secondment to the community team, the child protection team, Kidz First emergency department, a brief stint working at Starship Hospital's paediatric intensive care unit (PICU), which was hugely interesting but enough to convince me I didn't want to make a career in a specialist ICU. I finished my clinical career working in an after-hours clinical nurse adviser role covering paediatric areas at Counties Manukau DHB. Throughout this time, I had been a delegate and a member of several fantastic NZNO negotiating teams in the days of the very combative single-site DHB collective negotiations during the 1990s.

Fantastic organisers

I worked with some fantastic NZNO organisers, firstly Jane Kostanich and then Chan Dixon, whose dedication and commitment to members I really admired. Dixon encouraged me to apply for a vacant organiser role in 2003.

Over the last seven years as an organiser, I have covered Auckland DHB, a large and complex DHB with more than 3000 members, as well as hospices across the region. I also provide assistance to student members and regularly present to them. It's always refreshing to see their enthusiasm.

I have led the negotiations of the first two national NZNO hospice multi-employer collective agreements (MECA) negotiations and, more recently, the NZNO/DHB MECA negotiations in 2007 and the National Terms of Settlement (NTOS) process in 2010, in addition to many local workplace negotiations across the Auckland region.

I am well aware the NTOS process raised concerns among some of our DHB members. But there is no question in my mind that, after the calamitous global economic collapse and the subsequent fallout suffered by many, including NZNO members' families, eg job losses and pay decreases, we had to find a different way forward. Added to this, we faced a public sector wage freeze, NZNO staff and the national delegates committee knew we would be facing some significant public perception issues, combined with a determined National government stilt in its honeymoon phase with voters.

A delegate, writing in the letters to editor column in the September issue of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, stated: "I believe many nurses thought voting was futile and we would get whatever we were given because of the economic situation." (Bargaining process needs overhaul, p3.) This was an opinion I heard many times.

As difficult as it might seem, your NZNO representatives had to fight and push to get the two percent figure, while endeavouring to avoid industrial action.

Looking ahead, one of the challenges for the NZNO members in DHBs will be to retain their unity in the tough times. It is frustrating to hear comments, for example, from a group of specialist unit nurses about how they are worth more then their colleagues in a general area, or how senior nurses should receive more, relative to their staff nurse colleagues or vice versa. It is important to remember that unity and collectivity are the foundations on which all NZNO's work rests.

We are a broad church and it can sometimes be difficult to represent all views adequately but, believe me, we try and we will continue to listen and take on board improvements. Splitting our agreements into smaller and smaller parts and groups is a path we went down in the '90s and we last out big time. The old saying "fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me" springs to mind.

Another significant challenge is the general negativity towards political activism. Some members are sometimes critical if we are seen to engage in activities with a political bent. I agree we need to be non-partisan, ie not support a particular party, but we need to work with groups that support NZNO's position and strategy in Parliament to create legislation--or oppose legislation--that affects members and the public.

Looking ahead to 2011 and thinking of the short-term work within the DHB sector, but not specific to it, we will be extending a welcome to a new director general of health and building that relationship, as well as with the new National Health Board. We will be working on building an effective enrolled nurse workforce post transition to a new scope to support RNs, debating the parameters of an unregulated workforce, continuing to push an agenda that improves and delivers safe staffing and healthy workplaces, preparing for another MECA bargaining round, dealing with the Government's transfer of secondary services to private for-profit primary health providers, dealing with numerous health system restructurings and trying to build more constructive relationships with DHB management in the face of a drive for more efficiencies. As if that's not enough, there is also the not insignificant issue of a general election next year.

Lastly, I urge members to participate in protests against the changes the Government is proposing to the Employment Relations Act. Giving employers the right to summarily dismiss people with no right of appeal, request medical certificates for one day's absence and many of the other changes should offend all New Zealanders' sense of fairness. I have made my appointment to see my local MP. What about you? In the words of the Rage against the Machine song "Lets take the power back" I look forward to working at a national level with more of our courageous, caring, expert members.

Viva NZNO!

By NZNO industrial adviser Mark Lennox
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