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.

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.

‘How we got to where we are’ – Speech to NZNO Canterbury/Waitaha & West Coast/Tai Poutini Regional Convention

Notes of a presentation to NZNO Canterbury/Waitaha & West Coast/Tai Poutini Regional Convention on 28 May, as part of a leadership session alongside NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku and Chief Executive Memo Musa.

Photo courtesy of Jacqui Bennetts.

E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā rau rangatira mā, tēnā koutou. 

To the authorities, the voices and the many leaders, greetings. I acknowledge in particular the fellow members of the NZNO Leadership Team, Chief Executive Memo Musa and Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku. Thanks to Regional Council Chair, Cheryl Hanham, and Te Rūnanga rep Ruth Te Rangi for the invitation to be here today. To the staff and all the nursing leaders in the whare (which is everyone here), greetings to you. 

Who am I? Ko wai ahau?

Ko Kapukataumahaka te maunga, ko Ōwheo te awa, ko Cornwall te waka.

Ko Don rāua ko Helen ōku mātua, ko Tangata Tiriti tōku iwi, ko Grant Brookes tōku ingoa.

Kua maumahara ahau ki tēnei whakataukī i tēnei rā: “He ora te whakapiri, he mate te whakatakariri”. 

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

I hail from Dunedin. I grew up at the foot of Mt Cargill and by the Water of Leith. My ancestors arrived in Dunedin on board the ship Cornwall in 1849. The son of Don and Helen, my name is Grant Brookes.

As we gather today, I recalled the whakataukī: “He ora te whakapiri, he mate te whakatakariri”. “There is strength in unity, defeat in anger and division”. 

So greetings, one and all. 


It’s always good to be back here on the Mainland, on Te Waipounamu. I called this city home for a time, when I moved north from Dunedin and took my first job after leaving school. That was some time ago now, back in the mid-1980s, a while before I discovered my true passion in nursing.

But I cannot stand here today without acknowledging the tragedies which have befallen this beautiful place in the years since, and the resilience of its people. 51 lives, on 15 March. And you, “heartbroken but not broken”. 

This is the ninth and final NZNO Regional Convention for me this year. 

In the eight previous conventions, I’ve been asked to address a variety of topics – each under the general theme for this year: “Nurses A Voice to Lead – Health For All”. 

Today, I think the three of us have been given ten minutes each, with ten minutes at the end for questions. I’d like to use this short time to give some reflections on our past year, and what this means for NZNO going forward. 

From my perspective, one thing has overshadowed all else in the time since we last met. It’s not to downplay development across our incredibly broad sector, but if there’s one thing that dominated, for me it’s the bargaining in the DHB Sector, and its aftermath. 

When I last stood before you at this venue one year ago, our momentous #HealthNeedsNursing rallies had just wrapped up. 

Some of you will remember coming together that day in April in Hagley Park South, over the road from the hospital. Others, I’m sure, turned out on Mairehau Road, at Burwood Hospital, or at the corner of Lincoln and Annex Roads, outside Hillmorton. There were rallies too at Caroline Bay, by the Z station, and at the Ashburton Checkerboard.  

For my part, I remember leafleting morning commuters at Wellington Railway Station, and demonstrating with my fellow members outside Wellington Hospital in Newtown. 

Those rallies, it turned out, were just the beginning. 

The effects of nine years of underfunding, which we highlighted and rallied against during 2017, finally compelled us to take unprecedented industrial action. 

For just the second time, nurses in New Zealand’s public health system took nationwide industrial action, alongside midwives and health care assistants covered by the DHB MECA.

For me personally, the hours I spent picketing and marching with my fellow NZNO members on 12 July 2018 will stand as the proudest moments of my nursing career. 

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. 

At the beginning, as you’ll recall, most members were being offered three pay increases of 2%, over 33 months, and a lump sum of $350 (pro rata).

After the #HealthNeedsNursing rallies in April and the #HearOurVoices marches in May, the offer was almost twice as big. The lump sum was bumped up to $2,000. Pay rises ranged from 9.3% to 15.9% over 26 months. An extra $38 million was pledged by the Government to employ 500 more nurses and $10 million allocated for additional expert nursing staff to support implementation of CCDM. 

At the end of July, after two more votes to reject, health minister David Clark put his signature to a new Accord, strengthening commitments to make sure there are enough nurses and midwives in our public hospitals to guarantee safety for staff and patients. 

The journey was not easy. We didn’t win everything needed to rebuild our public health system. But every single one of these advances was powered by the unity and determination of thousands of NZNO members, who should be enormously proud of themselves. 

At the same time, however, there are some unresolved problems. As we faced difficult decisions in the MECA bargaining last year, differences emerged between members, and between members and their representatives. At times there were signs of strife, of the “anger and division” which our whakataukī warns about. 

From my vantage point, I’m sorry to say, it appears that these divisions haven’t all healed yet. 

As many of you will know, we are in the middle of an independent review of last year’s DHB MECA. This is being conducted by former CTU President Ross Wilson. He has sought the views from all sides of the debates. I expect that his final draft report, which is due in June, will bring together these different perspectives, showing the truth in each and our shared path ahead. 

At the same time, the DHB MECA campaign set the pattern for a renewal of NZNO as an organisation which is united, open and responsive to members. 

Members last year made the big decisions through democratic votes. We were able to vote online for the first time. This saw the greatest member participation in any decisions in NZNO’s history. 

Campaign and LPS planning took place through cooperation between NZNO staff and member leaders, from local workplace delegates to the nationally elected board. Actions were designed to maximise member participation.

It’s democracy and participation like this that has the power to forge unity, out of division. A democratic vote can resolve many individual differences into one collective union decision. As we continue the democratic process of overcoming differences, strength will grow; “he ora te whakapiri”. 

Looking ahead, I can see three major opportunities this year for members to participate in the democratic process and shape NZNO’s evolution. 

First up, 2019 is an election year for NZNO. In August, members will be able to vote for up to seven directors who will lead NZNO over the next three years. 

Secondly, under the new “one member, one vote” system, all members will have a say – for the first time – on remits. Remits are statements proposing changes to NZNO policy or to our Constitution, which outlines such things as the rights and responsibilities of members and who in NZNO has the power to do what. As we heard first thing this morning, voting on these proposed changes takes place in August, too. The results will be announced at the NZNO AGM in September. 

Thirdly, the NZNO Board is leading a review of our current five-year strategic plan, which expires next year. Consultation on a new NZNO Strategic Plan 2020-2025, which will set the organisation’s key priorities and actions for the next five years, happens in late 2019 and early 2020. Once members have given input, a final draft will be presented for delegates to vote on at next year’s NZNO AGM. 

It’s possible there will be other big democratic decisions this year, as well. The current issue of Kai Tiaki reports on a petition for a Special General Meeting of NZNO, to vote on a particular motion. If it’s signed by one percent of members, then an SGM will be held. 

While this is still uncertain, it is important for members to know that despite the bits and pieces you may have heard, from various sources, the current Leadership Team you see before you are willing and able to lead the organisation, in a spirit of partnership and cooperation. 

It’s also important to stress finally that healthy democracy is more than simply majority rule. 

Our professionalism reminds us to work respectfully with colleagues, who may be in the minority. It says so in our Code of Conduct from the Nursing Council. Our professionalism reminds a majority that others have a right to hold different opinions – and to remain collaborative towards them at all times. 

In conclusion, only once before in New Zealand – back in 1989 – have nurses taken nationwide industrial action. That mobilisation reshaped nursing and four years later, in 1993, led to the birth of NZNO. 

The winds of change blowing this last year will also be felt beyond the DHBs. 

The surge which has drawn unprecedented numbers members into action is bound to power the ongoing transformation of NZNO. 

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

‘The mana of our people’ – Speech to NZNO Top of the South Regional Convention

Notes of a presentation to NZNO Top of the South Regional Convention on 16 May, as part of a leadership session alongside NZNO Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku, Manager, Nursing & Professional Services Mairi Lucas and Industrial Services Manager Cee Payne.

Ko Ranginui kei runga, ko Papatūānuku kei raro, ko ngā tāngata kei waenganui – Tīhei mauri ora! 

Ranginui is above, Papatūānuku below, and we the people are in between. 

Ko te kupu tuatahi ka tuku ki te Kaihanga. Koia rā te timatanga me te whakamutunga o ngā mea katoa. Kei te mihi anō ki a Maungatapu, ki a Maitahi hoki. 

The first word is to the Creator, the beginning and end of all things. I also greet the great mountain Maungatapu and the River Maitahi (or Maitai), who define this place. 

E ngā mate, haere, haere, haere. Rātou te hunga mate ki a rātou. Tātou te hunga ora e huihui mai nei, tēnā tātou.

I greet those who have passed on, and the living gathered here. 

E te tiamana, ko Joan, tēnā koe. Ngā whakawhetai ki a koe mō tāu pōwhiri ki a ahau. E ngā rangatira, Kerri, Cee koutou ko Mairi, tēnā koutou. E ngā kaimahi, me ngā kaiārahi nēhi e huihui nei, tēnā koutou.

To the Regional Council Chair, Joan, thank you for your invitation. To the rangatira – Kerri, Cee and Mairi – to the staff and all the nursing leaders gathered here (which is all of you), greetings. 

Who am I? Ko wai ahau?

Ko Kapukataumahaka te maunga, ko Ōwheo te awa, ko Cornwall te waka. Ko Don rāua ko Helen ōku mātua, ko Tangata Tiriti tōku iwi, ko Grant Brookes tōku ingoa.

Kua maumahara ahau ki tēnei whakataukī i tēnei rā: “Kaua e takahia te mana o te tangata”. Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa. 

I hail from Dunedin. I grew up at the foot of Mt Cargill and by the Water of Leith. My ancestors arrived in Dunedin on board the ship Cornwall in 1849. The son of Don and Helen, my name is Grant Brookes.

As we gather today, I recalled the whakataukī: “Kaua e takahia te mana o te tangata”. “Do not trample on the mana of the people” – or translated simply, “don’t humiliate anyone”. This is so fundamental to who we are as NZNO that it’s enshrined in the NZNO Constitution as a statement of our Philosophy. So greetings, one and all. 

It’s great to be here in Whakatū/Nelson today, with my feet back on the Mainland I come from, and on the day before Pink Shirt Day. As you can see, I’m dressed for the occasion. 

Celebrated annually around the globe, Pink Shirt Day began in Canada in 2007 when two students, David Shepherd and Travis Price, took a stand against homophobic bullying after a new year 10 student was harassed and threatened for wearing pink. 

My older child Tama is a year 10 student this year. He’s in the LGBTQI+ club at his high school, and he wears pink. I’m wearing this shirt partly for him. 

But many of us here, I know, have experienced bullying from people in positions of power. Perhaps some of us are facing that situation in our working lives right now. 

Bullying takes a terrible toll – not only on us as nurses, midwives and healthcare workers but also indirectly on those we care for, because we can’t give of ourselves fully when we’re anxious, stressed and worried. 

In recognition of this, one of the other NZNO Regional Conventions last month featured a session on bullying from NZNO Organiser Deb Chappell that was profoundly insightful and very practical. A few of you may have seen it at the 2018 NZNO AGM and Conference in Wellington. I first came across Deb’s presentation at the Greater Auckland Regional Convention last year. 

Some of Deb’s points have stuck in my mind. 

Bullies, she said, thrive on secrecy. They work by isolating us from our support networks. They make sure nobody else knows what’s going on. They say to us, we’ll only make it worse for ourselves if we tell. 

But as a fellow survivor of bullying, I am here with you. I’m here to tell you that I believe in the message of Pink Shirt Day 2019: “Kōrero Mai, Kōrero Atu, Mauri Tū, Mauri Ora”. If we speak up and stand together, we can stop the bullying. And as soon as we start to do that, the weight lifts and suddenly it can become all so unexpectedly easy. 

This is the eighth NZNO Regional Convention for me so far this year. 

In the seven previous conventions, I’ve been asked to address a variety of topics – each under the general theme for this year: “Nurses A Voice to Lead – Health For All”. 

Today, I’ve been asked to speak for ten to 15 minutes. I’d like to use the rest of that short time to give some personal reflections on our past year, and what this means for NZNO and for our people going forward. 

From my perspective, one thing has overshadowed all else in the twelve months since we last met. It’s not to downplay development across our incredibly broad sector, but if there’s one thing that dominated, for me it’s the bargaining in the DHB Sector, and its aftermath. 

When I stood before you at this Regional Convention, a year and one day ago, it was at a different venue – the Tahuna Function Centre, looking out to the beautiful Tasman Bay/Te Tai-o-Aorere. Our momentous #HealthNeedsNursing rallies, held in the month of April 2018, had just come to an end. 

Some of you will remember coming together here in Nelson, on Waimea Road. Others, I’m sure, took to the streets outside Wairau Hospital. 

For my part, I remember leafleting morning commuters at Wellington Railway Station, and demonstrating with my fellow members outside Wellington Hospital in Newtown. 

Those rallies, it turned out, were just the beginning. 

The effects of nine years of underfunding, which we highlighted and rallied against during 2017, finally compelled us to take unprecedented industrial action. For just the second time, nurses in New Zealand’s public health system took nationwide industrial action, alongside midwives and health care assistants covered by the DHB MECA.

For me personally, the hours I spent picketing and marching with my fellow NZNO members on 12 July 2018 will stand as the proudest moments of my nursing career. 

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. 

At the beginning, as you’ll recall, most members were being offered three pay increases of 2%, over 33 months, and a lump sum of $350 (pro rata).

When we rejected that offer, the lump sum was increased to $1,050. 

After the #HealthNeedsNursing rallies in April and the #HearOurVoices marches in May, the third offer was almost twice as big. The lump sum was bumped up to $2,000. Pay rises ranged from 9.3% to 15.9% over 26 months. An extra $38 million was pledged by the Government to employ 500 more nurses and $10 million allocated for additional expert nursing staff to support implementation of CCDM. 

At the end of July, after two more votes to reject, health minister David Clark put his signature to a new Accord, strengthening commitments to make sure there are enough nurses and midwives in our public hospitals to guarantee safety for staff and patients. 

The journey was not easy. We didn’t win everything needed to rebuild our public health system. But every single one of these advances was powered by the unity and determination of thousands of NZNO members, who should be enormously proud of themselves. 

Then as Summer arrived, there were signs that the long, cold winter for nursing and for the people we care for was coming to an end. 

It will take more struggle yet to clear away all the dark clouds over the DHBs – not to mention the deeper chill still lying across the rest of the sector. But the first of the extra nursing and midwifery staff were being appointed. By the end of Summer in March, just over half of the 500 were in place. Rates of new graduate employment through the ACE Nursing scheme hit record highs. 

At the same time, however, there are some unresolved problems. As we faced difficult decisions in the MECA bargaining last year, differences emerged between members, and between members and their representatives. At times there were signs of division, and the inherent mana of people was trampled upon. 

From my vantage point, I’m sorry to say, it appears that these divisions haven’t all healed yet. 

As many of you will know, we are in the middle of an independent review of last year’s DHB MECA. This is being conducted by former CTU President Ross Wilson. He has sought the views from all sides of the debates. I expect that his final draft report, which is due in June, will bring together these different perspectives, showing the truth in each and our shared path ahead. 

At the same time, the DHB MECA campaign set the pattern for a renewal of NZNO as an organisation which is united, open and responsive to members. 

Members last year made the big decisions through democratic votes. We were able to vote online for the first time. This saw the greatest member participation in any decisions in NZNO’s history. 

Campaign and LPS planning took place through cooperation between NZNO staff and member leaders, from local workplace delegates to the nationally elected board. Actions were designed to maximise member participation.

It’s democracy and participation like this that has the power to forge unity, out of division. A democratic vote can resolve many individual differences into one collective union decision. As we continue the democratic process of overcoming differences, strength will grow. The mana of each person and of the group as a whole will be enhanced. 

Looking ahead, there are three major opportunities this year for members to participate in the democratic process and shape NZNO’s evolution. 

First up, 2019 is an election year for NZNO. In August, members will be able to vote for up to seven directors who will lead NZNO over the next three years. 

Secondly, under the new “one member, one vote” system, all members will have a say – for the first time – on remits. Remits are statements proposing changes to NZNO policy or to our Constitution, which outlines such things as the rights and responsibilities of members and who in NZNO has the power to do what. Voting on these proposed changes takes place in August, too. The results will be announced at the NZNO AGM in September. 

Finally, the NZNO Board is leading a review of our current five-year strategic plan, which expires next year. Consultation on a new NZNO Strategic Plan 2020-2025, which will set the organisation’s key priorities and actions for the next five years, happens in late 2019 and early 2020. Once members have given input, a final draft will be presented for delegates to vote on at next year’s NZNO AGM. 

But healthy democracy is more than simply majority rule. 

Our professionalism reminds us to work respectfully with colleagues, who may be in the minority. It says so in our Code of Conduct, from the Nursing Council. Our professionalism reminds a majority that others have a right to hold different opinions – and to remain collaborative towards them. This is also, I believe, the meaning of our whakataukī. Respect the inherent mana of every person. 

In conclusion, only once before in New Zealand – back in 1989 – have nurses taken nationwide industrial action. That mobilisation reshaped nursing and four years later, in 1993, led to the birth of NZNO. 

The winds of change blowing this last year will also be felt beyond the DHBs. 

The surge which has drawn unprecedented numbers members into action is bound to power the ongoing transformation of NZNO. 

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