NZNO's Blog

1 Comment


Anne Daniels, President
NZNO, Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa

Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku’s last blog (23 December 2022) includes a quote…“We have come too far not to go further, we have done too much not to more.” – Sir James Henare.

These words reflect the many challenges we (NZNO) are grappling with, right now. NZNO (members and staff) is invested in meeting members’ expectations around Pay Equity, Pay Parity, eliminating exploitation of a female dominated profession and securing a culturally safe work environment across the health care system.

Many of these campaigns started years ago, and some, such as the Pay Equity campaign, are tantalising close to becoming a reality. But we remain uncertain about the future. However, we can and must increase the likelihood of success through collective planning and action. As the election looms, NZNO members must decide what their priorities are in terms of our union and nursing as a profession. Why? There is no certainty that whoever wins the election will understand our needs or have them at heart unless we work together to influence what will be best for us and those we care for.

Now is the time to actively work in engaging every member to become informed about our priorities so that we can make sure every vote will count. Our large membership of more than 56,000 has the potential to make nursing and health key to influencing both our members and the public at large.

To do that every member, everywhere needs to be informed on the positions of the various political parties and every member everywhere must vote. Our current infrastructure of members, delegates, regional councils, Colleges, Sections, Te Rūnanga and many other specialty groups, working with NZNO staff, can make this happen, by working collectively.

Our priorities are clearly laid out in Maranga Mai! We cannot be certain we will have a Government willing to commit to NZNO’s priorities unless we make it clear that our votes will go where our interests lie. We must Rise Up and lead the debate about what is important for voters whilst making our politicians accountable for their positions on health and nursing.

Last year NZNO engaged a Director of Organising and experienced campaigners to support NZNO members everywhere to engage in the political process. Why? To challenge those in power to do right by us and the health and wellbeing of our nation.

Each one of us has a responsibility to understand the issues, know which politicians and political parties will commit to our Maranga Mai! priorities, and vote. More than that, we must all have conversations with our friends and family about the issues.

Currently New Zealand’s population is more than 5 million. That means there is approximately one NZNO member per 92 people living in New Zealand. Conversations with our families and friends have the potential to create a ripple effect. Our union is well positioned to influence the outcome of the election, but only if every one of us gets involved.

We must do this. Let’s make the uncertain, certain.

Leave a comment

We have done too much not to do more

Kerri Nuku, Kaiwhakahaere
Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa NZNO

I was fortunate enough to have caught up with a couple of nursing whānau and my kuia recently.  Dedicated to her work, the kuia has reduced her hours now, after all she is 79 years young.

As we sat down to for a chat, her concerns for the future were marked not only with the words she spoke but the tiredness in her eyes and anguish on her face. Nan has been an advocate and at the centre of many political actions in her times, including being the mediator between the whānau and hospital with our now infamous Hawke’s Bay child uplift case.

Her mokopuna who live with her are “an absolute joy” and, together with work they keep her going. But her fears for the future, especially herald a warning that poverty, social challenges and complexities are complicating health. We need to think differently to respond to the changing health demands, she cautioned.

Nan has walked through many changes to the health sector, but this time it’s different – her concerns are for the mokopuna and their future.

She is not alone in her views. The media is speculating a difficult year ahead, and there is no doubt that the unrelenting social, economic and political pressures are making it difficult to find the rainbow or look for the silver lining as the unpredictability of our economic future hangs in the balance.

This gave me more cause to reflect on my responsibilities as a mother, grandmother and worker, and our contributions as the largest female dominated union and professional organisation in Aotearoa to her story and what must be different as we approach the year ahead.

Our organisation has held the view of political neutrality and in the past, we have gone to great lengths to ensure nonpartisanism. Our history, including the New Zealand Trained Nurses Association, New Zealand Nurses Association (NZNA) and our organisation as we are known today NZNO Toputanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa. Professional, social, economic and industrial interests of nurses are the common purpose across our evolution, but our history highlights our struggles between industrial and professional identity within a female dominated workforce and our strength and political awareness.

We have a rich history of active protection, but perhaps one of our most defining moments was in 1973, when Margaret Bazley (who would go on to be the first female State Services Commissioner and receive the Order of New Zealand) declared that “the days of exploitation are over… If our tradition of serving patients is to be maintained, then the welfare of our nurses must be put first and foremost by the association”. By 1986 nurses’ protests over conditions and wages – the greatest distress cry of nursing in this country – caused the association a few years later to give strike notice as part of a successful “Nurses are worth more” campaign.

However, it would take almost 30 years before the country would see further strike action of that size, but it came frustratingly after almost 10 years of government underfunding of DHBs for us to act.

This year we have had further strikes and issued more provisional improvement notices than ever before. Each one, regardless of size, builds on the collective voice of the last and sends the consistent message. While we have been successful over several areas, claims in the Waitangi Tribunal, Pay Equity although still to be resolved we have stood resolute in our challenge: Pay Parity, expansion to include fast track to residency, inclusion on the workforce taskforce and expanding role of enrolled nurses. We have not won the war for every nurse everywhere; we still have work to do.

Whatever our position is next year, there is no doubt that we must ensure health is one of the election priorities. We must be effective in raising and using our collective power, raising our political voice and making our presence felt.

“He tawhiti kē to tātou haerenga ki te kore e haere tonu, he tino nui rawa ta tātou mahi ki te kore e mahi tonu – We have come too far not to go further, we have done too much not to do more”. Sir James Henare

Leave a comment

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

Anne Daniels, President
NZNO, Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa

“Nothing is too difficult to achieve. Only (fear) and apathy can defeat us.” – Sonja Davies.

Fear and apathy are the biggest threats to the health of our nation and our (regulated and unregulated) nurses’ ability to provide safe care through eliminating nursing shortages.

History shows we cannot rely on a government of employers to do right by us. Accountability to the public and professional health and safety through nurse/patient ratio regulation is a no brainer. We are the UNION. It is up to us, every NZNO member, to make this happen.

Fear is holding us back. Gender norms have contributed to a culture of deference to authority, self-depreciation, and overt oppression – strategies that devalue us, erode our self-esteem and belief in ourselves. Many of our members are afraid of losing their jobs if they get involved in political action or speak out. However, if you saw something happening that was causing your patient to be harmed, would you stand by and let it happen? I don’t think so. But when it comes to us, and the health and wellbeing of our nation, most of us are silent and inactive.

Very recently it was noted that some Te Whatu Ora nurse job descriptions had a new addition. And I quote: “Resilience/Flexibility”.

“This articulates differing perspectives on a problem and will see the merit of alternative points of view. It will change or modify own opinions and will utilise alternative strategies when necessary. This adjusts behaviour to the demands of the work environment to remain productive through periods of transition, ambiguity, uncertainty and stress.”

This requirement for new employees risks being in conflict with our human rights, the Health Practitioners Assurance Act, the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Nursing Council competency standards of practice. We are required to speak out and act when unsafe practice environments put our patients and ourselves at risk. Every one of us must get involved in our strategic Maranga Mai! campaign to eliminate this kind of overt oppression.

What must WE do about it.

  1. Turn our fears into value-based opportunities. What do you care about enough to stand up and act?
  2. Problem solve – we do that all day long at work. Name and reframe the problem. Work with your colleagues to find and implement a solution. Evaluate and engage in a continuous cycle of improvement to increase effectiveness. Be open to change. Think MARANGA MAI! strategy. Act collectively/inclusively, in different ways, starting with te Tiriti o Waitangi.
  3. How? Empowerment through education to prepare ourselves, and our future nurses, with the skills they need to make change happen: leadership, political, advocacy, activism. NZNO staff can and will support our members to become activists through our delegate, regional council, health and safety, college and section infrastructure, etc.

Get involved. Be part of the solution not the problem. The time is NOW!

Leave a comment

Power, politics, and money

Kerri Nuku, Kaiwhakahaere,
Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa NZNO

It’s difficult to know where to start when writing this blog because there is just so much happening keeping us on the edge of our seats. Internationally we have held our breath as we have watched political tensions escalate over land, power and possessions amid the backdrop of the increasing humanitarian crises and increasing numbers of refugees and displaced communities due to war, famine, natural disasters and climate change.

Back home, the increasing cost of living, exorbitant rent prices, increasing rates and mortgage inflationary costs for those lucky enough to afford the deposit for a house, adds to our burden of economic hardship. The problem with this hardship is that these features are increasingly common among us working class folk. For many of my friends and whanau, what once may have been left over from their salary or wages once all the bills are paid is no longer there. “It’s hard to stretch the purse strings any more …that broke long ago.”

As the political tensions start to warm up towards the next elections, power, politics, and money and their order of arrangement will be what makes the difference for many of us. There are already clear signs that Māori will again become political fodder, through divisive action intent on winning votes at the cost of commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. 

Without even trying to address the obvious issues in the health sector let alone the issues for nurses and all health care workers and all working-class people, I can’t help but wonder what the future for the nursing profession will look like. 

Over the years and as early as the 1889 women have been calling for better pay and working conditions. We have well documented evidence of the ignorance and inaction of governments over the centuries to take affirmative action to do anything meaningful and sustainable to ensure working conditions and pay for nurses and health care workers.

Our Pay Equity celebrations earlier this year have been short-lived as we find ourselves in Employment Court seeking a determination and direction. Again, we are reminded that we don’t hold power. While Pay Equity may have been an attempt to address gender discrimination, it has not gone far enough to change attitudes, behaviour and practice. As a predominantly female workforce we still have some way to go to make sustained change. Mindful of course that these rates are not available to nurses outside of Te Whatu Ora services.

COVID-19 exposed an already fragile health system, eroded by successive governments lack of investment in terms of facility appropriateness, models of care, human resources for health, working conditions and responsiveness to the community in which we serve. These cracks were laid bare due to the sheer size, scale and speed of the pandemic on our system health system which could not withstand the sustained impact. 

We continue to raise the relenting issues of working conditions and pay, especially in response to the “impact of COVID”, however now given the nursing workforce shortage nationally and internationally we will need to consider the development of our workforce. At the latest Manatu Hauora Hui, the gathering of health care workers, was an initial discuss to collectively look at work a future workforce may look like, an opportunity to start for redesigning considering newly established Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora and stand up of the Iwi Māori Partnership Boards. It looks to advance opportunities for healthcare workers, Kaimahi and Kai awhina workforce, potential changes to learning opportunities and credentialing, nursing council is currently working on changes to the Enrolled Nurses Scope and design, but until these groups are involved in any consultation of about them – we will continue to be done too.

I hear constantly our workforce is tired, burnt-out, frustrated and angry, but what we do together will determine what happens tomorrow.

Leave a comment

Why is it surprising that women are so effective?

Anne Daniels, President
NZNO Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa

Why is it surprising that women are so effective?

This question was posed by a Black Fern following an incredible win over France in the recent Women’s Rugby World Cup semifinal.

Why was the media so surprised? They worked hard, strategised and played like a real team. Similarly, NZNO members (who are mostly women) are more than capable of doing anything they put their minds to, particularly when they stand together in solidarity and focus on winning – which is exactly the point of the Maranga Mai! campaign.

Throughout history women have made things work and found a way forward. Just recently I was asked if the unsafe working conditions, nurse shortages, and increasing numbers of PINs amounted to the new normal. We simply cannot allow that to be so because that would mean accepting ongoing avoidable harm to our patients and ourselves.

The new normal must be one that sees nurses and all our members being valued, appreciated, and equitably paid. We must be able to enjoy our work, reach our full potential, and act as advocates and activists to enable our future nurses to reach theirs.

Right now, however, it seems the gods are against us; particularly when the ERA adjudicator in our Pay Equity case caught COVID, causing delay. I felt for her. I hope she recovers well. Her decisions will have a historic impact for all women who live and work in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Leading up to this ERA process, our members made a strong collective challenge to the Government and Te Whatu Ora decisions that would have disenfranchised a female dominated workforce – again. In the meantime, we have sent a strong message regarding the disrespectful, unfair and inequitable winter payments in a context where unsafe nursing workload outcomes are having a direct and negative impact on our patients.

In addition, NZNO members have gone on strike for fair pay and safe work conditions in Primary Health Care and in private hospitals. While these actions have been communicated to all members, these actions were mostly standalone. It is time for all of us to demonstrate real solidarity in a day of national action. What that might look like is up to our members. Our members are NZNO and NZNO is us.

NZNO members go to work each day and attempt to beat odds not of our making. To stand up in solidarity, we must find ways forward that effectively engage with every member, everywhere, AND every member, everywhere must follow through with real action.

Our Power is in our membership, 56,000 now and counting. Every one of us has a family, friends, community contacts. Imagine what a message it would send to our Government and our employers if we all rose up in solidarity. Together, we will stand, and we will leave no-one behind.

Like the Black Ferns, we can Maranga Mai! – Rise up and stand against the odds. We must be a force to be reckoned with. Let’s surprise them.

Leave a comment

Our voices grow louder

Kerri Nuku, Kaiwhakahaere
Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa NZNO

An aura of solidarity filled the air as more than 4200 of our members embraced the Maranga Mai! spirit in demanding employers bring their salaries up to par with our colleagues at Te Whatu Ora.

Plunket nurses hit the streets for the first time in decades on Thursday to voice their frustrations together with more than 3500 of their Primary Health Care MECA comrades.

After yesterday’s strikes, last week’s action by nurses from three private hospitals, and our Te Whatu Ora members refusal to work additional shifts three weeks ago, our message is now being delivered louder and clearer than ever.

Although we saw united action across the motu and for many of these nurses, they had taken affirmative action and joined in the ground swell. The vibe was palpable, the support and solidarity from other areas of the medical profession, emergency services and public amazing.

The action effect and optic must go past a few hours of action because the issue we face a historical and deeply entrenched. We must brush off the image that nurses and health care workers are complacent, we must dispel the myth that nurses are in silos across the health system, we need to all come together for the health and safety of not only our communities but for our workforce.

The issue at heart is Pay Parity for Primary Health Care, Plunket and Māori and iwi providers, it continues to be unfair and unjust that the same qualification and NCNZ requirement expected of both nurses that work within Te Whatu Ora and the funded sector should be allowed to be paid differently. Māori and iwi providers have been challenging successive governments for more than 14 years to address this Pay Parity gap and has gone so far as to take legal action against the Crown for continual breaches of unfairness.

Collective action is what is required to make change and we must continue to build member power and challenge unfairness and inequities for all nurses and health care workers in the future. We must raise our voices to the Government so loudly that the sound of nurses is deafening, we can’t be silent anymore. The Government cannot afford turn a deaf ear to our cries much longer or continue to plant their heads in the sand. We have had our fill and we will no longer put up with it. Our voices grow louder, will be heard and we will succeed!

Leave a comment

Plaudits to Rachel Thorn

Anne Daniels, NZNO President
NZNO Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa

Our action to stand united in making our point to Te Whatu Ora and refuse additional shifts from 3 to 9 October has left me proud of my colleagues and of being a nurse.

One nurse, Rachel Thorn is one of 1695 delegates who support members on the ground. Rachel led the way to challenge the decision made by Te Whatu Ora regarding winter payment inconsistencies and inequities. Last week’s unprecedented action was generated from her leadership (Whangārei nursing staff demand better winter incentives) in July. Since then, 80 percent of her colleagues in the Whangarei Emergency Department withdrew their goodwill and declined any extra hours of work.

Rachel has not only worked locally and but also nationally becoming the voice of last week’s action while demonstrating the principles of Maranga Mai!

As a result of her letter, an information gathering survey was sent out on 29 July to all members. We received more than 4000 responses in just over two days. Those responses made it clear that we needed to push back to Te Whatu Ora on the lack of consultation and the pitiful, gender-discriminating winter payment (when compared to our doctor colleagues) offered to nurses.

A survey, has just gone out to NZNO members asking for your experience of this action. Te Whatu Ora has also sent out communications on 30 September.

We expect to see the need for additional hours reducing as a result of COVID-19 and flu infections dropping. There will always be a need for some additional hours, although these are likely to be reduced over time and in line with our normal work now that we are past the peak of COVID and winter.

So, where to from here? The results of the survey sent out, will tell us. But there is one thing I do know, ‘winter is coming’ again. In a context where negotiations are about to start for the tertiary sector, when pay equity and backpay, pay parity, and no movement being made towards financial relief for student nurses or a reduction in immigration barriers for IQNs, I believe there is a growing NZNO member appetite to all stand up and act collectively. Maranga Mai!

Leave a comment

Maranga Mai! Let’s Rise up together

Kaiwhaka Kerri Nuku
Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa NZNO

Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa NZNO
Tu tonu mai
Te iwi e
Maranga mai
Hikitia te wero
Kia mau
Tatou katoa

Stand tall, stand proud
The people
Let us rise up to together
Let us take hold of the challenge
Let’s stand together and face to the
future together

“Maranga Mai! – Let’s rise up together”. We must work collectively to bring members together and address the workforce issues in the nursing, midwifery, kaimahi hauora, health care assistance and tauira arenas. 

Growing inequalities have been perpetuated and this could be attributed to apathetic politics that does not address the issues or the need for urgent change. This has led to many lagging behind in Aotearoa New Zealand’s health care system. 

This is not acceptable, fair, or just. Nurses, midwives, kaimahi hauora, health care assistants and tauira must be courageous. To be unsung heroes we need to be prepared to lead change. 
What we need is inspired collective action to ensure we as a union and a professional organisation leave no one behind. We must rise up!

Ki te kotahi te kākaho, ka whati; ki te kāpuia, e kore e whati.
If a reed stands alone, it can be broken; if it is in a group, it cannot.

Leave a comment

Nursing staff making their own words and music

Anne Daniels, President
NZNO, Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa

Many words were spoken, sung, whispered, shouted and written over three days at Te Papa, Wellington from 13-15 September. Our conference theme: “Nurses. Fronting the Battle for Health Nga Tapuhi – Te aroa kapa toa mo te hauora”, had many meanings for the 175 plus nurses, midwives, health care assistant and nurse practitioner participants.

Our words are powerful. They carry our thoughts and our intentions. Words have a deep connection to our way of being. Their effect can affect the “cardiac-orientating reflux”. This is when two or more hearts resonate together by listening to each other. Paying attention with an outward focus has a calming influence on the heart rate. Research suggests that a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress (Newberg & Walkman), positively or negatively. More importantly, the way words are expressed gives them power.

Māhirahira mai or staying curious, being interested in others and listening is good for our health as well as our effective leadership.

NZNO members and conference participants chose to “look up and look out” through our growing understanding of the Maranga Mai! campaign and what it meant for them as individuals, as whanau within their workplace, and the power we have in working collectively and in solidarity. This was tested, when conference participants learned that there was a change in the programme. It was a call for all to walk to parliament to honour the 50-year anniversary of 50th anniversary of the Māori language petition.

Some could not understand the connections with nursing but words spoken by NZNO leadership, particularly those from Kaiwhakahaere Kerri Nuku, were heard.

Kerri told us the march to Parliament was a sign of solidarity to show those champions and pioneers who organised the march that we were there to support them.

“We have an obligation and an opportunity to deconstruct the walls that have been built and oppressed us. Whatever goes forward we are there, we are part of that, and we support them.”

The words resonated with those of us who listened and we acted.

The walk to Parliament gave respect to the 50-year-old fight to bring te reo Māori back into our schools, was a powerful reminder of what collective action can do for our hearts and minds. It was an action for the right to use words in a language that is the lifeblood for Māori. It brought us together.

The march gave us hope. It prepared us for a plea for help from Rachel Thorn, Whangarei ED CNM, to support her team’s action to Rise up through Maranga Mai! nationally. It turned into a call for action by NZNO CEO Paul Goulter, myself, Kerri and the NZNO board for all members to work their contracted FTE only in the week of October 3-9, 2022.

This was a fitting use of words that gave power to NZNO delegates to Maranga Mai! to go forth and act. We are stepping up and out to become the future we want to be.

Maranga Mai!


Closing speech to NZNO Conference 2022

Paul Goulter, Chief Executive
NZNO Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa

Kia ora tātou,

Ngā mihi nui kia koutou katua
Ko Paul Goulter taku ingoa
Ko au te tamuaki o te
Tapo tanga Tapui kaitiaki o Aotearoa

It is a privilege to stand here and address you. It’s our first chance to get together kanohi ki te kanohi.

This is our first chance as a group to confront our situation and address what needs to be done – nurses, midwives, HCAs, care and support workers, Māori and Iwi – we all have this in front of us

But firstly, a tribute to you all. You are the living face of the frontline. You stood firm against Covid, you took on risks and you met your professional obligations.

And the New Zealand public love you for it.

But what my speech will be about is the future – what we need to do together, in our union to take on the biggest nursing crisis we have faced.

Because we find ourselves in the middle of that nursing crisis, with a govt that is struggling to fix it.

So we NZNO will drive the fixing it and we will be relentless in doing so.

So what is our situation?

Simply put:

  • we don’t recruit and train enough nurses
  • we don’t retain enough nurses in the service; and
  • the jobs are increasingly not good jobs.

We are more than 4000 nurses short. Our workforce is aging, our nurses are leaving – not just overseas but leaving the profession – nurses have simply had enough!

Our nursing numbers are propped up by immigration – we have the highest number of immigrant nurses in the OECD 26 percent in 2019 (and more now). Switzerland is just behind us then a significant drop to Australia at 18% then basically everyone else is in single figures.

Of course, we welcome our nurse colleagues from overseas but fundamentally this country has to take responsibility for recruiting and training its own.

And it has failed and continues to fail to do this – instead relying on immigration to prop up failed workforce strategies. 

Do you know what they call their nursing workforce strategies? The nursing pipeline – there is even a Nursing Pipeline work group – well you can guess what I think when I think of a pipeline – it’s an insult to the profession and its contribution.

We simply do not have enough students going into training, they struggle to stay in training and come out of training with huge debts. For Māori nurses – the numbers are way worse and attrition of Māori nursing students is much higher.

Fundamentally there are not enough nurses and the ones who remain here are being flogged to death. A fact that the public seem to know but our political leaders seem unable to respond to.

Instead in the last Budget, the Government committed billions for the change from DHBs to Te Whatu Ora and Te Aka Whai Ora but hardly a cent more for the frontline work force – nurses, doctors and allied health.

So what do we struggle with? We struggle:

  • to get paid properly
  • to have safe and health workplaces
  • with getting nursing students into education and training
  • with a system that relies on immigration but won’t put nurses on the green list (as doctors are)
  • with a system that does not recognise and respond to the needs of Māori health and Māori nurses.

This is a crisis – the Minister can call it whatever he likes but it is and remains a crisis. You know it’s a crisis because daily you live it in your workplaces

And if we standby and let it run without fighting for the changes we need then we all – as NZNO, as member leaders – we all stand condemned.

We came to this conference to learn, to recharge, meet old friends but you also came here to do something about that crisis

And you came here to lead your part of NZNO – in whatever roles you have – to make those changes.

This nursing workforce crisis is not new – it predates Covid, it worsened during Covid and it will continue post Covid.

And it has a face, a human face, your face and the faces of the nurses you represent.

And they are all saying – ‘enough’.

And they are challenging their union and its leadership to get out there and advocate their cause and organise.

That is why we have Maranga Mai! Every nurse, everywhere – out there and active

It’s simply not good enough be a bunch of dispersed voices complaining about their situation.

As a union we need to join up those voices, directing and focusing them around the key Maranga Mai! messages and fixes; and then

And then we need to get out there, on the streets organising and fighting for our fixes.

I congratulate those of you who have been active in the workplace, in your sectors and in the public.

  • Our delegates
  • Our HSRs
  • Our regional councillors and college and sections leaders
  • Our aged and retirement care nurses and care workers who rallied back in May around the country for just funding
  • Our primary healthcare colleagues who rallied two weeks ago for pay parity
  • Our Māori colleagues who daily confront the injustices of our existing health system
  • And if I have forgotten anyone – sorry about that and let’s give them a big clap as well!

Before I go any further I want to talk about a couple of areas that effect everyone in this conference – pay equity and pay parity.

It is now well known that our hospital nurses made it quite clear that despite around six years of waiting, the pay equity proposals emerging from the pay equity process were not good enough.

So you spoke up and it was stopped. It was stopped because:

  • it didn’t provide full back pay to 2019 despite this being promised
  • it didn’t address gender discrepancies across the board
  • it didn’t provide for a mechanism of review that ensured the gender discrimination did not re-emerge later down the road.

And then our members said – quite correctly – take it to the Employment Relations Authority and the Employment Court and get it sorted – get the rates arbitrated by an independent ERA member and the back pay by the Employment Court.

So we are in the Employment Court arguing that the government was obliged to pay full back pay to 2019; and

We are in the ERA saying that all the proposed rates need to be reviewed and reset higher due to flawed bargaining processes forced by the Crown.

And by the way on the backpay lets here what our Minister said and what the DHB employers said about back pay

AL – There would be back pay to the agreed starting point of December 31 2019. The government had not considered any further back pay.

DHB – Settling the pay equity claim comes with a commitment to backdate any increase to 31 December 2019 and the DHBs are asking that’s taken into consideration in this pay round

And what has been the response from the Minister when we lodged with the ERA –

Nurses in hospitals, right now, would be on base incomes between $10,000 and $12,000 a year more had the Nurses Organisation not blocked a pay equity deal they signed up to in December last year. You can understand that I find the Nurses Organisation talking with a forked tongue on many issues,

And if that is not good enough the Crown goes further and lodges a claim for a $20,000 penalty for a breach of good faith because we stopped the process.

Minister – we say there was no deal. An agreement in principle is not a contract. Here is the final draft document they were asking you to vote on – you cannot see it from this distance but:

  • it has ‘draft’ all over it
  • changes were still being tracked in and
  • none of the various government authorities expected to have signed it before you voted on it had done so.

And the Minister still says we had welched on the deal.

No, there was no deal and yes we are using your governments Equal Pay Act to resolve it

Our nurses need that money.  And we must recognise our midwives are lining up behind this process as their pay equity process has also stalled awaiting resolution of the nurses’ issues.

Its scandalous that on one hand the government acknowledges the long-standing gender discrimination and on the other refuses to pay out.

In saying ‘no’ you have shown the public and the government, NZNO will no longer be pushed around.

It signals that time is over, that things have changed

That’s Maranga Mai! – Rise Up!

And of course, any discussion of pay equity leads directly to pay parity

And that is the struggle our nurses outside of the hospitals are having to even receive the current DHB rates – in ARC, primary and community health, Māori and Iwi providers, Pasifika, Plunket and all our other frontline areas, let alone any pay equity enhanced rates.

And the very time when the public and NZNO and nurses and doctors everywhere are crying out for funding at the frontline – in the last Budget our govt delivered basically nothing for that frontline

What were they thinking?

Now the future

Firstly – in hospitals –

We must fix this winter payments debacle. The decision by TWO to unilaterally introduce a series of payments with no negotiation with NZNO is:

  • unacceptable
  • disrespectful
  • a danger to health and safety as it encourages already fatigued nurses to work on
  • It discriminates between doctors and nurses on the payments, and in our view
  • It breaches good faith and the Act.

We have already heard from members who are taking a stand on this winter payments programme and have been calling on NZNO to support those members.

And so today we are calling on Te Whatu Ora to immediately enter into negotiations to change the current programme that ends on 30 September and any new replacement programme.

And if they don’t satisfactorily conclude those negotiations then we call on our members in the week of Monday 3 October till Sunday, 9 October to work only contracted hours.

It is a health and safety issue and it’s a respect issue.

TWO needs face up to their obligations:

  • under the ERA,
  • under the H&S Act and
  • in good faith.

And negotiate safe arrangements with NZNO that are nationally consistent and are consistent with what doctors get.

Can we do that?

Should we do that?

Secondly, right around the corner is the bargaining for new Te Whatu Ora CA to replace the DHB MECA which expires on 31 October

We have been planning this campaign for some time and are ready to launch.

Apart from other claims to be raised by members, we will focus on –

  • An acceptable pay increase in line with the rise in cost of living – to be either delivered through the current negotiations between the govt and the public sector unions – called a Public Sector Pay Adjustment; or
  • Through direct bargaining across the table
  • We want to give teeth to what is called Safe Staffing. As the Ministerial review showed (but strangely did not conclude) CCDM is not working for nurses atb. Just like the Aussie nursing unions we want ratios – mandated staffing levels along with a CCDM generated overlay on top of those levels as well as a cultural overlay for Māori nurses working with Māori. We want the ratios regulated but we cannot wait for legislation so we are going after them in our CA negotiations; and
  • We want expanded health and safety rights and protections. Our nursing crisis is a health and safety crisis for staff and patients alike. We need to use and expand on the existing rights and protections to give force to correcting unsafe workplaces – and for those of you already doing that – congratulations
  • We have established escalation pathways to escalate these health and safety issues including violence in the workplace. We need to be prepared to take advantage of our rights under the Act – issuing PINS, standing up against unacceptable management behaviour, moving to cease work orders and fundamentally be prepared to use the legal protections of the Act to refuse unsafe work if not satisfactorily addressed.
  • The situation is so bad there is nothing left to do than take this ramped up stance and support our HSRs and delegates who lead this. What is called a staffing crisis is in fact a health and safety crisis.
  • And this means putting intense pressure on Te Whatu Ora through exercising our H&S Rights and protections in this bargaining campaign to demonstrate why we need extended those extended rights in our new CA. H&S is our number one risk, and we cannot sit back and wave it through

For Aged and Residential Care

Your challenges are now very public – attracting and retaining staff.  We have two pieces in play-

For those covered by the Care and Support legislation – we are now in a full blown pay equity process

For those covered by CAs in the 5 big ARC employers (Oceania, BUPA, Radius, Summerset and Rymans) we are taking on a whole new campaign using what is called pattern bargaining – bargaining the same MM based claims across those 5 employers – pay equity/pay parity, ratios, health and safety, protections for immigrant nurses and so on.

Why those five employers?

Because they dominate the ARC market – they set rates for residents and rates for nurses and caregivers.

They make enormous profits and yet cry poor when it comes to paying their staff more.

In primary health care, we continue to be stuck as we cannot yet achieve either pay parity or a pathway to pay parity. The Minister continually said he is committed to pay parity for this sector but nothing emerges- and all the time this frontline suffers as nurses leave for better wages and new nurses are not attracted.

Te Whatu Ora says that the two recent capitation payments to GPs have enough to pay parity. But that’s not true – and so we campaign onwards and move to action.

Our Plunket nurses are in the same spot. Losing nurses everywhere and failing to attract and retain nurses due to the pay rates.

This situation for primary health must be fixed and fixed once and for all.

Lastly but not least – let’s turn to those working for Māori and iwi providers.

Where the worst pay discrepancies are found?

This situation is a scandal successive govts have been responsible for years for –

  • Inadequate funding
  • Failure to recognise the additional cultural responsibilities on Māori nurses
  • Poor funding models ensuring a lack of confidence in ongoing funding;
  • And a lack of concern for Te Tino Rangatiratanga.

This has to stop!

On NZNO’s part we are launching a separate campaign to address this and achieve pay parity plus (the plus being the additional recognition for the cultural knowledge, skills and responsibilities expected of our Māori nurses.

We will build Māori models of organising and will take a different form from normal organising campaigns – but it will be an organising campaign – members working together to win.

And of course, there is a whole lot more to win that I have run out of time to cover.

We need to build a sustainable education and training system that meets NZ workforce needs now and into the future.

And while we fix that – we need to get nursing onto the immigrant Green List – like doctors – to expedite the immigration of nurses to New Zealand.

We need to build career pathways (or staircasing) so health sector workers can see a way ahead if they so choose.

And is there any urgency about all of this – you bet – in twelve months plus time there is a general election and if the govt changes it all becomes so much harder.


In conclusion – I want to talk about respect.

Since my time in NZNO I have felt keenly this issue of respect – or rather lack of respect that is shown to nurses, our HCAs, our midwives, our care and support workers and other NZNO members and their union NZNO.

I know you feel this. You have told me.

Well – that is going to change.

NZNO is not going to sit back any longer –

  • and just accept what’s dished out to us
  • waiting at the end of the queue
  • letting the system and employers trample all over us
  • having others set the agenda for our profession. Telling you what is good for you
  • And ultimately – being disrespected

That’s finished!

That’s finished as of now

NZNO will from now on be respected

We will be respected as –

  • the biggest health union
  • as the professional and industrial voice of the profession
  • but most importantly as the powerful force of 55,000 and growing members

And if your union is respected, then you as members of that union are respected.

And I am sure that is what you want and it is what the people you represent want

But you know it simply doesn’t happen because we want it

It happens because we are prepared to go out and do what needs to be done to win it

That is Maranga Mai

But do you know what the big win will be?

It will be respect – respect for –

  • you
  • your colleagues
  • your profession
  • and your ambitions

And in my last question to you – are we going to take this on?

Do we have the strength, the endurance and ultimately the belief?

We believe  what we stand for is right and we should be respected for that.

Are we up for winning this?

Are we up for respect?

Because if we are –

We will win it

Maranga Mai!

Rise up!

Maranga Mai!