‘Fairness and justice for the good of the organisation’ – Speech to 2019 NZNO SGM

E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā kārangarangatanga maha, tēnā koutou. To you the authorities, the voices and the many connections, greetings. 

Kia tau te rangimārie ki runga i a tātou. Peace be upon us all. 

I want to start by asking of you all, ‘where do you want NZNO to be in two years time? What is your vision for this organisation we pour our heart and soul into?’

That vision you just built, those hopes and aspirations for NZNO, are what connects all of us in this room. 

And underpinning this vision are our shared values of fairness and justice, and our belief in transformation through unity and collectivity. 

In the short time I have today, I’ll share why I believe the only way to achieve our future vision for NZNO is to honour these values today.

Let’s start with fairness and justice.

We’re here to decide on a resolution, moved by the outgoing Board, that I should be removed as President for misconduct. 

The motion is reliant upon Schedule Six of the NZNO Constitution. The wording in that Schedule goes back – virtually unchanged – at least to the birth of NZNO in 1993. 

What were our forebears thinking back then, when they drafted it? What guidance might we take from the wisdom of our nursing tūpuna? 

There are clues in the surrounding text. Schedule Six says: 

“Position holders may at any time be removed from office… by reason of:

  • inability to perform the requirements of the position; or
  • bankruptcy; or
  • neglect of duty; or
  • misconduct; or
  • misappropriation of NZNO funds or property.”

I ask you to consider, first of all, whether using these rules in the current circumstances honours the intent of our forebears? Is this a fair and just use of the rules? 

Let us now look to the grounds for removal offered by the Board and test these for fairness and justice. 

In my view, there’s only one actual misdemeanour in the whole of their thirty pages. 

On 3 July 2018, I sent a Facebook message to an NZNO Senior Manager who I’d been assigned to work with on the DHB MECA campaign. NZNO has confirmed to Radio New Zealand that this person was Industrial Services Manager Cee Payne. 

My message was inappropriate. I know that it caused distress. I take ownership of the fact I made a mistake. 

For a variety of reasons, between then and now I’ve been prevented from making an apology for my mistake. The NZNO Chief Executive wrote a memorandum to the Board the day after the message which acknowledges that he prevented me from apologising that day. You can see that Memorandum on pages 45-48 of my statement

Cee Payne is not here today, so I can’t apologise to her directly. But I’d like to make a public apology, reading from a letter to her which I wrote and gave to the Board on 17 December last year. Sadly, this letter was never delivered.

“Tēnā koe Cee,

On the morning 2 July 2018 you visited me in my office. The words exchanged with you caused visible distress. 

The following day you received from me a communication sent via Facebook Messenger. I acknowledge that this message was inappropriate. 

I apologise unreservedly for the upset I caused for you on both occasions. 

My deep appreciation of your contribution to NZNO, which I have expressed consistently to yourself and to others, continues undimmed. 

I genuinely welcome the opportunity to work with you to rebuild our professional relationship.

Nāku noa nā

Grant Brookes”

The Board paints me as unrepentant. They deny that I have tried to apologise. As I hope this letter from last December and my apology today shows, nothing could be further from the truth. 

I would now like to hand a signed copy of this letter to the Board, once again, hopeful that this time it might be delivered.

You have heard me acknowledge my mistake. 

But what you haven’t heard – and won’t hear about today – are very similar mistakes made by other Board members over the last 12 months. Some of those people asking you to remove me from office have been the subject of complaints themselves about inappropriate messaging via Facebook – multiple complaints, in some cases. 

This should not be surprising. How many of us in the room today have never been the subject of a complaint, during our nursing career? 

We all make mistakes. The question is, what should be done about them? Should our mistakes be used as an opportunity to inflict the maximum punishment?

Is that who we are, as nurses – caring professionals? 

As unionists? 

Is that the kind of disciplinary process we support in our own workplaces? 

No! We can’t abandon fairness without changing who we are and what we stand for. 

The remaining allegations in the Board’s 30-page dossier are either false, trivial or worse. 

It is alleged, for instance, that I am guilty of “unprofessional conduct towards a senior member of staff”, by sending two emails which were “patronising”, “demeaning” and “unacceptable”, or “unjustifiably critical”. I include those emails, on pages 42 and 43. I’ll read one of them, sent on 21 July 2018:

“Kia ora koutou,

At the Leadership Team meeting on Monday, I provided grounds for believing that a breach of Board confidentiality occurred during the teleconference held on Wednesday 11 July, attended by ten Board members. It was agreed that more information should be gathered in the first instance by [name].

I have not received confirmation that this has been done. In addition, I am aware that [name] is now on leave until 30 July.

As Board Co-Chair, I share responsibility for ensuring implementation of processes that result in Board effectiveness, which naturally include maintenance of confidentiality. Owing to the apparent delay in acting and the lack of clarity around timeframes, therefore, I am obliged to bring this to the Board now, for your attention.

The LT meeting minute is self-explanatory:

Regards

Grant”

The fact that the Board references this email as grounds to remove me from office is beyond trivial. It is bizarre – so bizarre that it’s actually incomprehensible, unless seen in the context of what else has been going on inside NZNO. 

An honest and full account of that is contained in Ross Wilson’s MECA report. He observes that:

“The pressure which came onto the organization and individuals during this time was intense and, at times, almost overwhelming.”

He adds: “The pressures had consequences in strained relationships between key individuals and groups within the organisation which have not yet been adequately addressed.”

Evidence of strained and fractured relationships within NZNO is everywhere.

Three days from now, on Thursday, NZNO Senior Managers will appear as defendants in the Employment Relations Authority in Tauranga to account for a complete relationship breakdown between themselves and NZNO staff in the Tauranga office.

Three weeks ago, the anonymous Florence Smith posted on Facebook a complaint letter sent to Cee Payne and NZNO HR during the MECA negotiations, signed by “multiple NZNO frontline staff”. In it, organisers expressed concern about NZNO senior staff’s inability to listen to either organisers or members. 

Radio New Zealand concluded from the MECA report that NZNO suffered “deep divisions, including a loss of faith and trust, by nurses in their union during contentious pay talks last year.”

As a result, dissatisfied members have been leaving to join the newly established alternative to our nurses’ union.

NZNO membership numbers have fallen by 1,766 between September 2018 and last Friday. That will shave the better part of a million dollars off NZNO’s bottom line. Going forward, it’s likely to mean fewer services and less support for members like you.

Fundamental relationship strain, at times pushed to breaking point, is the systemic issue underlying this Special General Meeting.

Removing me from office will not heal these deep divisions, nor rebuild trust and confidence from our membership. I shudder to think what it would do to our bicultural relationships. 

It’s been inferred today that I must be removed for the good of NZNO. Removing me will in fact make things much worse. 

If today, this SGM overrides the democratic will of the members to have me as their president, it will be taking us further down the path of division and breakdown, just as we’re heading into DHB MECA bargaining once more. 

But we have an alternative. We can instead acknowledge where our organisation has come from, and have confidence that with our shared values and our belief in the transformative power of collectivity and unity we can and will build the NZNO we together envision. 

Our shared values are such a strong foundation to move forward with. I leave you all – especially you Kerri, the Kaiwhakahaere I have worked with so closely for so long – with my personal commitment. My personal pledge is to move forward, looking to build unity and collectivity, to advance fairness and justice.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.

The President comments: ‘We will overcome’

According to my research, the upcoming 2019 Annual General Meeting in Wellington should mark the longest period of continuous service by an NZNO president in our 110-year history. I will have served four years and a day. 

Past presidents have won an equal, or greater number of elections. But through the quirks of history, either they weren’t consecutive, or they were at a time when presidential terms were two years, rather than three years as they are today. 

Throughout this past 110 years, NZNO has undergone much dynamic change. We’ve transformed from a small group vehemently opposed to advocacy on pay, to over 50,000 members prepared to take to the streets to secure an environment where good health can thrive. 

NZNO has embraced change throughout its history. Members voted to strike in 1985, only to have it called off. Four years later, Auckland nurses Jenny Landsbergen, Lucien Cronin and Gordon Love took to the streets in our first ever nationwide industrial action.

The four years of my presidency has been a story of working together towards positive, member-led change. We have gained momentum in collectively shifting the ethos of our organisation. We are insisting that our organisation is led by us, the members. 

The changes started small. In 2015, delegates at the NZNO AGM directed NZNO to act in accordance with member values. They voted that we should divest from fossil fuels, become a Living Wage employer and expand our global connectedness with other nursing unions

Within a year, the last of these three was complete. We had joined with our sister unions in Global Nurses United, who are now leading the worldwide fight for safe nurse:patient ratios. 

The changes grew through members’ growing insistence that we would lead our organisation’s direction. As 2017 rolled into 2018, members in the DHBs stood up and took unprecedented actions for themselves, for communities reliant on our over-stretched health system and for a union that represents us all. 

As I wrote in this column a year ago, about the DHB strike of July 2018, “For me personally, the hours I spent picketing and marching with my fellow NZNO members that day will stand as the proudest moments of my nursing career”. 

And finally, now nearly every important NZNO decision belongs to all members with one member one vote

The four-year journey has not been easy. At times, there has been rancour and bitter division. 

But we have worked through our differences before. We have innovated, adapted, and made significant changes to be where we are today. Had our organisation not been prepared to embrace change we would still be campaigning against penal rates, and standing against the 40-hour working week! 

Last month, a hard-hitting report was released on the 2017/18 DHB MECA bargaining and campaign. I believe it affirms the experiences and concerns of thousands of NZNO members. The very existence of this report, I ascribe to member pressure, in particular to the proposals put forward at last year’s AGM by the NZNO Greater Auckland Regional Council. 

Today, there is a last stand of resistance to member-led change in NZNO. But we will overcome because over the four years we have organised ourselves to insist our member voice will be heard and acted upon. 

This year’s AGM will see a new Board take office, elected by the entire NZNO membership. The new Board will have to ensure that all recommendations of the MECA review are implemented, that a new NZNO Strategic Plan for 2020-25 is put in place and that our structures are up to the challenges the future will throw at us. I look forward to working with your newly elected Board to ensure this happens. 

The last four years have been important ones for our 110-year old organisation. The next chapter is ours to write together.

First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, September 2019

Letter from a nurse and lawyer

Below is a copy of a letter from an NZNO member which was sent last week to the Chairs of an NZNO College and a Regional Council. The author, who is dually qualified as a Registered Nurse and lawyer, has agreed for it to be published here anonymously, saying: “I’d really happy if it helps get an understanding out there of the issues that we are really dealing with.”

RE: THE MOTION TO REMOVE GRANT BROOKES AS PRESIDENT OF NZNO

This is NOT a legal opinion.

The below is a summary of my thoughts regarding the motion to remove Grant Brookes as president of NZNO.

I wrote it to help me process and to clarify for myself what the issues are and then to put them forward to my Regional Council and professional college with my request that they vote NO to the motion.

I have been asked if my summary can be shared with others and I am happy to allow that on the understanding that it represents my own analysis and thoughts and was shared in the first place for the specific purpose of supporting my own position to the groups within NZNO that I am entitled to submit to.

I do have legal training, (am also a nurse) and that was useful to me in trying to analyse the complex and somewhat confusing material that I waded through. My conclsuion is that the correct response to the motion to remove the President is tovote NO.

However, I am not a specialist employment lawyer, have not had the benefit of time the time it takes to conduct comprehensive legal research and analysis of the matter and want to make it clear my summary belowdoes not in anyway constitute a legal opinion on the matter. 

In support of my conclusion I make the following points:

Process

  1. Notwithstanding that the process that is being followed might be allowable under the Rules of the NZNO constitution (that is by no means settled) NZNO is not above the law. Any process followed to evaluate the behaviour and decide on an outcome, and any actions taken must be consistent with New Zealand law, not only because of the very serious financial and reputational risks to the organisation if that is not done, but most importantly because that is the right thing to do.
  1. While the employment status of the President (e.g., employee/ self-employed/ elected official etc) is not clear the matter has been managed so far as if there is an employer/ employee relationship. Therefore fundamental employment principles should apply. 
  1. Most relevant are the requirements to: 
  • deal with employees in good faith, 
  • be fair and reasonable 
  • use a fair process to investigate misconduct and 
  • only impose an outcome that is proportionate to the misconduct. 

Disregard of these (already there are instances) can give rise to legal action for a breach of procedural fairness or a breach of substantive fairness. That would be costly to NZNO in more than financial terms.

  1. Procedural fairness includes that an investigation must be based on the principles of ‘natural justice’ including a presumption of innocence, fair consideration of the facts within their context, being listened to with an open mind and a lack of predetermination of the outcome. I do not believe natural justice has been a feature of this process.

Behaviour

  1. The behaviour called into question by the NZNO Board has notbeen proved to be misconduct. An investigation undertaken by employment lawyer Steph Dhyrberg noted: 
  1. the text that the President had sent was ‘ambiguous’. The text could equally be interpreted as conciliatory (that was my interpretation as it references forgiveness and says ‘we need you back’), or interpreted as non-sensical. Nonetheless, although his behaviour in sending the text has been acknowledged as inappropriate by the President he was discouraged/ prevented from apologising.
  2. that the President had been drinking at the time he sent the text is quite rightly regarded as ‘irrelevant’. It is disappointing then that it is raised, remarked on several times and later construed – with no further evidence – that he was a ‘heavy drinker’ 
  3. that the intent of the conversation the day before the text was sent was also ambiguous. Talk about there being a crisis and needing/ having a plan are not outrageous in the context of the situation. Indeed a review of the MECA negotiation process has criticised that there was a lack of a plan. The sinister interpretation that has been retrospectively overlaid onto the President’s remarks in order to justify a threatening interpretation of the text is purely speculative. 
  4. Other behaviour such as speaking at the rally, sending an email to a senior staff member that was considered patronising, looking dishevelled, and drinking in his own time are not behaviours that could, in a fair and reasonable enquiry, be considered misconduct. It is not fair or reasonable that these matters, apparently not raised at any level other than being remarked on, are now included to add gravity to the behaviour that is being investigated. 
  1. In any case, evidence put forward by the complainant against the President may be unreliable. For example, during the investigation by Steph Dhyrberg the complainant claimed that the text she received was an ‘out of the blue’ communication and that she and the President were not in regular communication. The Dhyrberg report makes much of this to support an interpretation of the message as a ‘threat’ to the complainant. Yet the President has approximately three years of text communications on his phone between himself and the complainant that evidence the existence of a different relationship than what has been suggested – one that seems collegial, friendly, professional and respectful. Of course, in the absence of a proper forensic examination of their communication, or at least sworn affadavits it is not possible to judge whose evidence is the most reliable. But it is not right and certainly not consistent with the principles of natural justice to merely accept the complainant’s statements as being more trustworthy than the President. 

Inconsistent Treatment

  1. The standard against which the President’s behaviour has been judged is inconsistent with that being used to judge others’ similar behaviour and the outcomes being considered for the President are significantly more serious than being considered for others. For example:
  1. There have been inappropriate communications from NZNO staff that do not appear to led to disciplinary action. For example
    1. NZNO staff actively challenging nurses on Facebook during MECA negotiations, without identifying themselves, to an extent that was intimidating. We are not aware of disciplinary consequences that resulted from these matters.
    2. NZNO staff were very recently making inappropriate comments on Facebook to the extent that it is known they were requested to cease doing so by the CEO. This has been intimidating to NZNO members who are entitled to engage in debate about matters that concern them. As recently as Friday the moderators of one group were compelled to request that NZNO board members and employees desist from trying to join the group. We are not aware of any disciplinary consequences that resulted from these matters. 
  2. Steph Dhyrberg herself was recently the author of an offensive Twitter communication for which she was compelled to publicly apologise (reference Newshub article 28/01/2019 “Wellingtonian of the Year Apologises Over ‘Whores’ Tweets”) The content of the tweet concerned was substantially more damaging to many more people than the text sent by the President to the complainant. Yet (quite rightly) she was able to withdraw her statements and apologise. It is somewhat ironic then that she has been selected to investigate the significantly less miscreant text that the President sent to the complainant. 

It is a common basis for successful legal challenge in the employment courts that an employee has been treated in a manner that is inconsistent with the way others have been treated. 

Acting in Good Faith

  1. There have been likely breaches by NZNO of the ‘good faith’ obligations that are incumbent on parties in an employment relationship and on employers in an employment investigation. 

Notably: 

  1. The immediacy with which the complainant’s perception of threat from the text sent by the President was concurred with notwithstanding the alternative narrative that the complainant’s pivotal role in the MECA negotiations, the protracted negotiating process, the widely expressed frustration and disappointment of the members with the progress of the negotiations and the personal villification of the complainant on social media had greatly increased the possibility of her perceiving threat in the situation. 
  2. A seemingly immediately sinister interpretation of the text and the retrospective gathering of other (contested) examples of behaviour to support that sinister interpretation. 
  3. The reported lack of support by the CEO for a more conciliatory response from the outset evidenced by the CEOs immediate dismissal of the suggestion of an apology and the blocking of subsequent attempts by the President to apologise.
  4. The wide release (to all members and others who could easily access it without logging in as a member to the NZNO website) of personal information about the President beyond what is necessary for those who are to vote to assess the behaviour that is under question of misconduct.
  5. The unsubstantiated labelling of the President’s alcohol consumption as ‘heavy drinking’ – where that is not supported, has not been suggested or raised in any other context as a matter of concern, and is not relevant to the current enquiry, but nonetheless is damaging to the President as it encourages the perception that he may in fact be a heavy drinker which could diminish his standing among other staff and the members of the NZNO and may influence their voting in the motion to remove him.

Outcome and Consequences

  1. While we have been encouraged to focus on the behaviour of the President, I believe it is important to consider the proposed consequences of proceeding with the removal of the President at the Special General Meeting. This is the matter that carries significant legal, financial and reputational risks for our organisation. 

.

  1. It is important to note that Steph Dhyrberg places a very clear limit on her retainer of investigation of misconduct. She specifically declines to recommend whether removal is appropriate 
  1. Although the NZNO constitution allows removal for misconduct, that is not defined in the Constitution. Employment law requires that a disciplinary outcome is not disproportionate to the misconduct it addresses and dismissal typically follows a finding of serious misconduct. Removal from his position would be an excessive consequence for the behaviour of the President. 

.

  1. As well as the injustice to the President of doing so, imposing a disproportionate outcome exposes the organisation to the risk of a legal action for substantive breach of employment law.

Membership

  1. Furthermore, removal of the President has the potential to cause significant harm to the organisation and relationships with the rank and file members. It is no secret that the regard with which many members hold the union is currently at a very low level . Many members feel that their voices are not being listened to, that they are powerless to effect any change in the organisation and that they are disenfranchised. 
  1. Removal of the elected President for behaviours that have largely been seen as arising from his commitment to give the membership a voice has been construed by many as an attempt to silence the members, to shut down criticism, cut off communication and further distance the members from the power base of the organisation.
  1. Furthermore, to remove the elected President with no clear mandate from the members (e.g., by member-wide ballot), is not only wrong in principle but sadly confirms to the members the significant disconnect between themselves as members and the executive and employed staff of the NZNO.
  1. Finally, it is widely considered rather disingenuous for the Board of Directors to engage in a process on their last day in office that removes the elected president without a clear mandate from the membership and leave the incoming Board to manage the resultant consequences 

Bullying

  1. I am aware (as it has been expressed at the Regional Meeting I attended and it is evident on social media) that NZNO employed staff have been feeling criticised and bullied. I acknowledge there is a reasonable basis to that, at least an impression of it on social media. While I wholeheartedly agree a strong stand needs to be taken on bullying and staff need support to manage it, I would be very disappointed if this enquiry into the Presidents alleged misconduct was construed in such a way as to be used to try to promote that the organisation is addressing bullying. 
  1. On the other hand, this process surely represents an opportunity NZNO could embrace to address a perceived culture of division, bullying and negativity with a more open, compassionate and restorative process. In my opinion, expert consultation on those matters would be a more profitable use of the union’s funds than continued litigation. 

Summary

  1. In summary I am left with a strong sense that the process being undertaken is wrong. The investigation of the President’s alleged misconduct has been unfair and the outcome proposed is quite extreme..It has not been shown in a fair and reasonable investigation that his behaviour amounts to misconduct and even if it had been the proposed outcome of removal from his Position is a disproportionate consequence that is entirely morally and legally unjustifiable. The proposed motion should be voted down as it is just not right but also because in proceeding there are significant legal, financial and reputational risks to the union.

Welcome to the new NZNO Board

NZNO members have spoken. The results of the 2019 NZNO Board Election are in. 

The new Board represents the biggest change for our elected leadership since the positions were opened up to all-member ballots through the NZNO Constitution.

There are six new Board members on our eleven-member Board. They will take office at the NZNO AGM next Tuesday. 

I thank all of the candidates who put themselves forward. People who stand for election, with all of the scrutiny, stress and personal sacrifice this entails, do a great service to NZNO. They enable us to debate – and provide us with choices about – the future of our organisation. 

I congratulate the successful incoming and re-elected Board members – Anne Daniels, Katrina Hopkinson, Sela Ikavuka, Margaret Hand, Simon Auty, Andrew Cunningham and Anamaria Watene.

With this line-up, I am confident that NZNO has a governance team who can take the organisation forward. Together we can strengthen our organisation to work for the benefit of NZNO members and for the health of Aotearoa New Zealand. 

I look forward to welcoming all the newcomers to the Board, alongside Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku, at our first scheduled face-to-face meeting in October. 

NZNO injunction application proceeds as DHB MECA report drops

Media Release: NZNO President

27 August, 2019

Last-ditch mediation between the President and the Board of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation ended in Wellington today without agreement. The President is opposing the Board’s attempt to remove him from office over a complaint laid by a senior NZNO staff member in July 2018, and other allegations yet to be released. 

The failed talks took place on the same day that the NZNO Chief Executive released the DHB/NZNO MECA Negotiation Process Independent Review Report

“The Independent Review Report lays bare the tensions within NZNO at the time that the senior staffer laid the complaint against me”, said NZNO President Grant Brookes. 

The Independent Review Report found that the pressures which came onto the organisation and individuals during the 2018 DHB MECA negotiations were intense and, at times, almost overwhelming and that this had consequences in strained relationships. 

The overriding recommendation in the Report is that NZNO invest in an internal reconciliation and and dialogue process with the objective of restoring respect, communication and cooperation. 

“It’s an absolute tragedy that the NZNO Board has failed to heed this advice and has instead done the opposite”, said Grant Brookes. “With preparations already under way for DHB bargaining next year, NZNO members need leaders they can trust to implement the Report’s recommendations.”

“Meanwhile, every day that the Board’s process continues, more damage is done to NZNO and to the image of our nursing profession. It’s time to call a halt.”

The President’s application for an injunction against his removal from office will now proceed. A preliminary hearing will take place in the Employment Relations Authority at 50 Customhouse Quay in Wellington at 9.30am on Thursday, 29 August.

The hearing is open to the public. Donations are still being accepted through Givealittle for Grant Brookes’ legal defence fund.


Update 5.30pm: My lawyer has advised that new information which has come to light necessitates the postponement of the hearing before the Employment Relations Authority which was set down for Thursday.

Update, 3 September: Today, an updated Statement of Problem was filed in the Employment Relations Authority seeking a compliance order against the NZNO Board. The compliance order could compel the Board to abide by the NZNO Constitution, and invalidate the actions they have taken in breach of the Constitution. The ERA has granted urgency, although a date has not yet been set for a hearing.

Injunction application filed by Nurses Organisation President

Media Release

22 August 2019

An application was filed in the Employment Relations Authority in Wellington today, seeking an injunction to prevent the Board of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation from removing the President from office. 

The application has been made under Section 161(k) of the Employment Relations Act 2000, on the basis that the Board of Directors has failed to comply with the union’s rules. It was submitted on behalf of two NZNO members, Ruth Whittle and President Grant Brookes.

“I have recent personal experience of how deeply flawed NZNO’s complaints process is”, says Ruth. “Having reviewed the available evidence, I believe the NZNO Board’s motion to remove Grant Brookes from office clearly breached the rules of NZNO.” 

The attempted removal of the President has surprised and angered many, given that NZNO members are currently voting to elect a new Board. 

“The process which the outgoing Board has used in a last minute bid to remove me from office, just one day before their term expires, is unconstitutional, fundamentally unfair and an appalling abuse of power”, says Grant. 

“But over the past week we’ve also seen thousands of NZNO members mobilise together in a multitude of ways for the type of organisation they want to belong to. I’d like to thank in particular each and every person who has donated through Givealitte to my legal defence fund. 

“With this passion, energy and commitment, I know we can renew NZNO. We can be once more an organisation which is focused on the needs of its members and the health of Aotearoa New Zealand. 

“Meanwhile every day that the Board’s process continues, more damage is done to NZNO and to the image of our nursing profession. It’s time to call a halt.”

The President comments: ‘Our Pacific nursing voices on the world stage’

THOUSANDS OF nurses from all over the world converged in Singapore for four days last month, for the biennial Congress of the Interna­tional Council of Nurses (ICN). (See also p2, 12 and 13). 

Chief executive Memo Musa, kaiwhaka­haere Kerri Nuku and I, however, were among about 225 nursing leaders from 85 countries who arrived in Singapore early. Our job was to represent NZNO at the three-day pre-meeting of ICN’s govern­ing body, the Council of National Nursing Association Representatives (CNR). 

NZNO delegation to ICN CNR. Pictured (l-r) Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku, President Grant Brookes and Chief Executive Memo Musa.

From its headquarters in Geneva, ICN represents more than 20 million nurses on the world stage, including at the United Nations and in other influential global institutions. Representatives of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank were among the observers at the CNR meeting. 

NZNO has been part of ICN since 1912. By joining NZNO, each member automati­cally becomes a member of ICN, as well. 

In Singapore, Kerri and I were proud to receive ICN’s Gold Award for Membership Inclusiveness – international recognition that over 76 percent of the nurses in our country belong to NZNO. 

ICN Awards Ceremony. Pictured (l-r) NZNO President Grant Brookes, ICN President Annette Kennedy, NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku, ICN Board member Wu Ying.

Heading into the CNR meeting, our focus had been on two proposals which would strengthen the governance of ICN and increase its relevance to nurses in the South Pacific. 

The first of the CNR proposals on our radar was an amendment to the ICN constitution to clarify the function of the audit and risk committee (ARC), to increase ICN’s transparency and account­ability. The ARC was first established, with NZNO’s backing, at the last CNR meeting in 2017. Nuku was selected to serve on it. 

CNR delegates also voted to change the way seats on the ICN board are al­located, confirming a decision made at the last CNR meeting

Delegates in Singapore voted in favour of the constitutional change. This means, among other things, the ARC will now re­port on ICN’s finances each year to NZNO and all the other NNAs who fund it. 

Unfairly marginalised

NZNO had persuaded delegates in 2017 that the voice of South Pacific nurses had been unfairly marginalised at ICN board level. We successfully moved a motion to create a Pacific and Eastern Asia sub-region of the Geneva-based organisation. 

The vote in Singapore means there will now be a seat reserved for a board member from our region at the next election of the ICN board in 2021.

CNR meetings offer unparalleled oppor­tunities to foster cooperation between nurses from around the world. We held bilateral meetings in Singapore with leaders of the Chinese Nursing Associa­tion and American Nurses Association. We articulated our NZNO values and perspectives, as world events bring nurses in our respective countries closer together. 

NZNO meeting with the Chinese Nursing Association.

The Canadian Nurses Association requested a meeting to discuss NZNO’s bicultural model, as it strives to respond meaningfully to the report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission on harm inflicted on its indigenous peoples. 

The CNR ended with a joint session with Nursing Now, the three-year global campaign to improve health by raising the status and profile of nursing. The WHO, in partnership with Nursing Now, has declared 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife

NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku discussing Nursing Now at ICN CNR.

Our input into the discussions about Nursing Now and 2020 was to raise the profile of indigenous nursing leaders who have made significant contributions to the profession and health care. This will also guide NZNO’s approach to next year’s celebrations, in collaboration with our national nursing partners.

First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, July 2019. Re-posted with permission. Photos courtesy of Eseta Finau.