Global nurses unite in Québec

At last December’s biennial meeting of Global Nurses United, NZNO leaders were able to bring some unique perspectives and gain fresh insights.

By NZNO president Grant Brookes

Nursing union leaders from 18 countries, representing more than one million nurses and health-care workers, gathered in Québec, Canada, in December for the biennial meeting of the Global Nurses United (GNU) executive committee.

GNU Executive Committee, 1.12.17
GNU Executive Committee meeting, Québec, 1 December 2017 (Photo: Linda Silas)

As a new GNU affiliate, NZNO was taking part for the first time, represented by kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku and myself. There we helped plan internationally-coordinated actions for 2018 and contributed a New Zealand perspective on global nursing and union debates.

We were also able to gain fresh insights into some of the issues facing NZNO, such as the need to grow advanced nursing practice in primary health and how to strengthen union democracy in an age of electronic voting (see articles, p29; listed below under “Related coverage“).

Collective bargaining discussed

The GNU meeting opened with a discussion on nurses’ rights to organise and bargain collectively. Although changes to the Employment Relations Act under our previous government have temporarily threatened multi-employer collective agreement (MECA) bargaining, some nursing unions in Asia, Africa and Latin America face bigger challenges.

The discussion in Québec laid the basis for a subsequent GNU joint approach to the government in Honduras, signed by NZNO.

Along with the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, we highlighted the health impacts of climate change in the Pacific. The GNU meeting adopted a consensus statement on “Global Nurses Leadership for Climate Justice”.

Next, we received an expert briefing from the Canadian Federation of Nurses’ Unions on the current state of trade negotiations, including those for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (now known as the “TPP-11”, or “Comprehensive and Progressive TPP”).

The original TPPA was vigorously opposed by NZNO. Strong Canadian opposition to the TPP-11 has ensured some of its harmful provisions have been suspended.

Actions against violence

The two final agenda items – on workplace violence and safe staffing – included proposals for action. The GNU meeting voted for global actions against violence towards nurses to be held on International Women’s Day (March 8), and for a week of action in May in support of safe staffing.

The NZNO board of directors later approved these two campaigns in principle, subject to operational contingencies.

Coinciding with the convention of the local nurses’ union, the Fédération Interprofessionelle de la Santé du Québec (FIQ Santé), five GNU affiliates were also invited to take part in a panel discussion. NZNO was among them. Our topic was how government policies affect the care union members provide, and what struggles we face.

NZNO’s bicultural framework

I explained to the 1000 convention delegates that all NZNO struggles are framed by bicultural relationships – highlighting struggles for the restoration of health funding, for safe staffing, new graduate employment, fair employment laws and for a health workforce that is culturally, ethnically and gender-representative, and that enacts Treaty of Waitangi articles.

Us two
NZNO co-leaders Kerri Nuku (left) and Grant Brookes (right) took part in an international panel at the FIQ Santé convention.

On the TPP, Nuku said: “We will ensure no international agreements compromise New Zealand’s ability to control and lower the prices of pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies: to carry out public health programmes or maintain and expand the public funding and public provision of health on a non-commercial basis.”

Her description of NZNO’s 10-year battle for pay parity for nurses working in Māori and iwi health providers touched a nerve. Canada has embarked on its own truth and reconciliation process to address historic injustices suffered by indigenous people. After the panel discussion, nurses came up to Nuku to share stories about inequities experienced by indigenous health services on First Nations reserves.

The full text of our joint presentation is at https://nznogrant.org/2017/12/13/struggles-we-must-face-joint-nzno-presentation-on-the-global-nurses-united-international-panel-quebec-city/. •

 

Related coverage:

‘No fees at nurse-run service’

‘Do online votes aid union democracy?’

(First published as “NZNO brings its views to the world stage” in Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, February 2018. Reposted with permission). 

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