Titiro ki muri kia whakatika ā mua. Look to the past to proceed with the future.
I CAME across this proverb last month at Te Matatini, the national kapa haka championships in Wellington. It summed up for me our task as we prepare to update and replace NZNO’s five-year strategic plan, which expires next year. The process approved by the board will involve input from external stakeholders, NZNO staff and members.
Looking back, and thinking about the future, gives us all a chance to re-focus on the big questions for NZNO. Who are we here for? What are we hoping to achieve? How will we get there? What’s going on in our environment – political, economic, social/cultural, technological, legal and environmental – that we will need to respond to?
Much has changed since delegates at the 2015 NZNO annual general meeting voted to approve the current strategic plan. Back then, as chief executive Memo Musa reminded us, union membership was declining. Law changes had made it harder for unions to operate, and union influence was dwindling. An NZNO strategy stressing nursing professionalism fitted with the times.
Fast forward to 2019 – anti-union laws have been reversed, and the trend of declining union membership has also turned around. Union engagement with employers and government is stronger. Health funding is no longer falling. There’s also much to learn from last year’s unprecedented DHB MECA campaign.
The board has also agreed in principle on a review of our operational structures, to make sure they’re suitable for implementing the new strategy. And while no decision has been made, we have discussed whether the NZNO constitution – which spells out who has the power to do what in NZNO, and members’ rights and responsibilities – might need to be reviewed, as well.
Who are we here for?
In my view, the answer to the first big question, “Who are we here for?”, is that NZNO is here, above all, for the members, and we must keep members at the centre of our planning. If we focus on supporting and empowering members, then our strategic goals and the ways to achieve them will become clear.
Members see the impacts of health and social policies, and belong to communities who experience impacts, too. Supporting members means our strategic goals should include political changes.
All of us are unionised workers and health professionals. Focusing on members solves the conundrum of whether to stress “industrial or professional” strategies. At all times, we are both.
And nurses and midwives are required to practise in a culturally safe manner, under the Treaty of Waitangi/Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Supporting members means strengthening biculturalism.
Such a member-centric strategic plan might suit an NZNO structure where more authority and resources are devolved to our volunteer member-leaders.
It could drive full implementation of NZNO’s organising model, an approach which empowers members in the workplace to act as a team in their own interest, rather than just looking to an NZNO staff member to “fix” things for them. •
First published in Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand, March 2019