The President comments: ‘NZNO’s bold new experiment in democracy’

NZNO HAS embarked on a bold new experiment in democracy. That, for me, was the big news to come out of our annual general meeting (AGM) and conference, held in Wellington last month.

The two-day event, which was preceded by colleges and sections day and the National Student Unit AGM, attracted around 230 members, staff and guests (see coverage, p11-19).

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Around 230 people attended the NZNO AGM and conference last month

We celebrated the outstanding achievement and service of members at our NZNO awards dinner. And presentations by an amazing group of cross-sector leaders on the second day helped us all raise our sights and embrace the conference theme, Health is a human right – optimising nursing to make it happen.

But it was on day one that the major decisions were made. As I noted in my opening address, we had come together on Suffrage Day, and at the end of a turbulent year for our union and our profession.

Overshadowing all else in the last 12 months has been the bargaining in the district health board sector. The effects of nine years of underfunding, which we highlighted and campaigned against in 2017, finally compelled us to take unprecedented industrial action.

The MECA bargaining sparked a campaign of extraordinary drive and determination, on the part of NZNO members and staff alike. Together, we achieved momentous things.

But there were also problems. As we faced difficult decisions, differences emerged between members, and between members and their representatives. Some felt the voice of members was not being heard.

Unity out of division

These differences were seen again in the debates on the conference floor. But the democracy that the Suffragists fought for, back in 1893, has the power to forge unity out of division. A democratic vote can resolve many individual differences into one collective union decision.

So the decision by AGM delegates to deepen and strengthen democracy within NZNO could be the most important thing to happen to our organisation in a long time.

Up until now, voting on proposed changes to NZNO policies and our constitution has been done at the AGM. Only those who attended got to vote.

From next year, however, all members will be able to vote online on these matters, with the results announced at AGM. Agreement to move to the “one member, one vote” system means the voice of members will be heard more clearly.

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Jennie Rae, a mental health nurse from Taranaki, introduces the proposal to move to the “one member, one vote” system.

For me, as your president, the 2018 AGM and conference marked the start of my second term in office. I pledged to delegates that over the next three years I will work for NZNO’s renewal, in partnership with the kaiwhakahaere and in conjunction with the board and chief executive.

In every organisation, there are always a few who want to keep things as they are. But I never underestimate our collective power as NZNO members to deliver renewal.

AGM delegates have placed their trust in their fellow members. Now the obligation is on us to live up to this trust, to participate wisely in the new democratic process to make sure NZNO is the open and responsive organisation we need. •

First published in the October 2018 issue of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand. Reposted with permission.

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