Calls for reform of NZNO’s bargaining approach – with DHB pay equity negotiations in the wings – are to be discussed at a hui at the weekend being called by an NZNO member activist group.
It follows the challenging DHB NZNO negotiations that saw resolute DHB nurses unite to take the first national strike in nearly 30 years over pay and safe staffing concerns – and ended with 64% voting in favour of a fifth DHBs’ offer following the signing of the safe staffing Accord and NZNO’s recommendation that further industrial action would not lead to extra funding for the deal.
The hui is being held on August 19 in Auckland by the newly-formed NZNO Members Action Group to discuss where-to-next for the NZNO members who expressed frustration on social media about the union’s responsiveness to members during and after the DHB MECA negotiation process.
Asked what lessons he believed NZNO could learn from the 2017-18 negotiation round NZNO chief executive Memo Musa said the union would be conducting its usual evaluation and review of the MECA negotiation process to look at what worked well and what could be improved on. “Particularly in regard to the growing climate of social media dialogue that took off during the negotiations”. And he said it would be engaging with members on how they would work together on planning the next round of negotiations – including the pay equity process – taking into account the review results.
Musa added that members have a wide range of views and the negative comments on social media had to be viewed with the context of the 64 per cent who had voted in favour of the final offer.
Action group spokesperson Danni Wilkinson said the group had about 400 members and was a ‘rank and file’ member response to unite NZNO members who had spoken out about their concerns on a number of the nursing social media platforms.
Wilkinson founded the Facebook page Nightingales Fight for Fair Pay in late May as a spin-off from the ‘Nurse Florence’-founded New Zealand, please hear our voice page. The page has 2800 followers compared to Nurse Florence’s 45,000 plus, and the longer-established NZNO Members & Supporters page (8200 members) and the New Zealand Nurses Organisation page (20,200 followers).
“I think if we don’t keep the momentum that we have gathered over the last six months – if we don’t keep that going we will go back to that apathetic – ‘the union doesn’t give a (toss) so why should I’ – attitude with people refusing to vote and just not paying attention to what is going on,” said Wilkinson.
“And we will sit on that for another ten years and flare up again. And I don’t think that’s healthy. I think we’re better to create the change and maintain our healthy union along the way rather than clash and fight every ten years or so – which is exhausting.”
“I guess we are at the point where there have been a lot of people talking – and it’s time to put up or shut up – if you are just going to sit in the background and whinge, whine and complain but not actually participate in creating the change that you want, then stop your whingeing.”
Musa said alongside the negotiations review NZNO was now turning to delegate and member education and communication about what the new DHB/NZNO MECA contains. “And show we will work together on the implementation and planning for the next round of negotiations including the pay equity process, taking into account outcomes from the review.”
He said NZNO was supportive of members being able to speak openly about the deal on social media. “However, what is disappointing and unacceptable on social media are the personal attacks on the negotiating team and process based on insufficient knowledge, evidence and facts about the technical aspects of the negotiation process.”
Musa said some of the comments had been unpleasant and unprofessional and directed at people “doing their utmost to deliver the absolute best for members” and who had to “personally dig deep” to continue in an environment where they suffered continual criticism from some members. He said the relationship between senior staff and many grassroots members remained strong. “NZNO gained the best possible MECA offer and we are now receiving many, many emails of thanks to the senior staff which had been heartening.”
Wilkinson said the action group was particularly keen to see change in how the upcoming pay equity negotiations were carried out and to have assurance that the negotiations would be backed by quality research. “The other concern that we have is that NZNO said repeatedly that the members are the union but there is definitely a strong feeling that that is not the case.” Wilkinson said she was aware of many members who felt that NZNO had prioritised the union’s partnership with DHBs over representing many members’ wish to push for a better offer or consider further industrial action.
But she said if members are wanting change from the union in return they also had to be ready to participate themselves. “They don’t have to be the workplace delegate – they can just be the person who helps the workplace delegate, collects signatures on petitions or offers other support so they are active participants. We are hoping if we can encourage 30,000 members to take a bit more interest then things will change from within for sure.”
Wilkinson said talking on social media had been great – while acknowledging there had also been some misinformation and confusion – but more action than social media posts and comments were needed to create the change that members had talked about.
“If our group finds that we don’t have enough support – and actually members are happy to just go back to work and tick along – then we (Action Group leaders) will keep looking at doing things through official channels – because we do believe there is a strong need for change and we will help guide that.” The group is also inviting people from other centres to join the Auckland meeting via teleconference.