Act locally, think globally

Kai Tiaki Aug 2016 cover
First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing NZ, August 2016. Reposted with permission.

For many of us, world affairs aren’t something we think about much as we get on with everything that needs to be done at work, and at home. But lately, for better or worse, global events seem to be impacting more than usual on our daily lives. Some of us woke up after the United Kingdom’s “Brexit” vote to find our KiwiSaver balances were suddenly lower than expected.

Meanwhile, amidst all the hub-bub and noise of the United States presidential elections, it seems the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) has been defeated, in its current form. The TPPA would have undermined health here in Aotearoa. But thanks to a people’s movement, with America’s largest nursing union, National Nurses United (NNU), at its core, it looks likely our professional aspirations to deliver the best possible care will be protected for now.

Even the biggest issue we face as health-care workers – safe staffing – has been the subject of international connections. As reported in the July issue of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, NZNO last month hosted the leaders of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU).

CFNU visit

The main purpose of their visit was to study how our care capacity demand management (CCDM) programme works, as a mechanism to deliver safe staffing in district health boards (DHBs). But they also talked with me about Global Nurses United (GNU). GNU is a new international network of nursing unions from 19 countries. CFNU and NNU helped establish it in 2013.

It was founded to “step up the fight against the harmful effects of austerity measures, privatisation and cuts in healthcare services” and to “work collectively to guarantee safe staffing and the highest standards of universal healthcare as a human right”.

The leaders of GNU were also opposed to the adverse effects of income inequality, poverty, maldistribution of wealth and resources, and the ravages of climate change.

The “austerity” mentioned refers to the way governments have responded to the global financial crisis. Austerity involves cutting government spending, including health spending, in the belief this will boost economic growth.

In this country, the erosion of core government health expenditure means there is now a shortfall of $1.2 billion, compared to the 2009/10 year. This is one reason why attempts to implement CCDM in a timely way have struck so many road blocks.

To address this, NZNO is launching a major new campaign, Shout Out For Health. We’re aiming high – the goal is a fully-funded health system, where we’re properly resourced to provide care we’re proud of. Shout Out For Health will strengthen our DHB MECA campaign next year and put a strong case for health during the 2017 general election. It’s something that all NZNO members can take part in.

But as we push against austerity and for safe staffing, we can also look to joining with others around the world doing the same. As they say, “act locally, think globally”.

Last September, delegates at NZNO’s annual general meeting (AGM) voted to “review our international affiliations before AGM 2016, in order to expand our global connectedness with nursing unions and professional associations in a cost-effective manner.”

That review, completed in June, talks of the potential for NZNO to become part of GNU. I believe we share many of the same nursing and union values as other GNU members. We’re already working on many of the same issues. It would be more effective if we did it collectively. And joining GNU is free.

I think it might be time we signed up.

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