I’ve been following the progress of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations right from the beginning. It’s a scary process, being negotiated in secret. The leaked documents I have seen show that if signed, New Zealand would lose out in all sorts of ways – from a loss of sovereignty to adversely affected public health outcomes.
What I didn’t fully appreciate until now was that, if we go ahead with the agreement, the United States’ (US) heavy handed approach to enforcement could extend as far as directing New Zealand’s laws. Judging by information released on a new website which identifies the legislative changes the US might expect of TPP partners, it appears I was overly optimistic.
The US has a ‘certification’ process which involves consultation with and monitoring of trading partners to ensure that their regulatory environment in consistent with treaty/partnership obligations. While that sounds fair – we all want to be sure that we are operating from a level playing field – in practice it is more ominous, amounting to direct interference in the democratic processes of sovereign nations.
The certification process would come after the TPP agreement is signed! It is another opportunity for the US to tell us what laws and regulations we must change before they implement the agreement. It is like having another bite at the cherry. It enables the US to exert huge pressure on countries which may not want to risk the ‘good deal’ they’ve signed up to with 11 other countries if the US pulls out.
The website exposé shows the areas they will be looking for ‘compliance’ with US regulations and the sort of pressure they’ve exerted on countries such as Peru where, as part of the certification process for the Peru-US free trade agreement, the Office of the United States Trade Representative actually drafted Peru’s legislation and demanded that it be accepted without change, with quite disastrous consequences for Peruvians.
The ‘barriers’ the US wants removed according to the website, will require changes to our domestic copyright and patent laws and Pharmac’s operating processes – changes that NZNO and many in the health sector have repeatedly pointed out present a risk of increasing the cost of medicines and limiting government’s ability to regulate for public good. The New Zealand Climate and Health Council OraTaiao says (pdf) that losing our sovereign right to create and strengthen the laws that form the building blocks for fair and healthy lives – access to medicines, clean water, food and air – will make it extremely difficult for New Zealand to maintain and improve our quality of life.
I agree. New Zealand laws must be made by New Zealanders.
Ahakoa, he iti he pounamu.
Today we took our 8,000 strong petition calling for a nurse entry to practice position for every new graduate nurse to Parliament. Ryan Boswell from TV1 and his cameraman were waiting to find out what was going on.
You can see the ONE news piece here: Desperate nurses call for jobs action
NZNO president Marion Guy talked about the nursing shortage New Zealand is facing – we will be short more than 15,000 nurses by 2035!
Kaiwakahaere Kerri Nuku explained how important it is to have a homegrown nursing workforce. We need nurses who are representative of our population; that means we need to train and retain way more Maori and Pacific nurses and rely less on internationally qualified nurses.
We had a quick photo with the petition before Marion, Kerri and our CE Memo Musa went into the Beehive to meet with Minister of Health Tony Ryall. An entire class of school kids spontaneously joined us!
Marion, Kerri and Memo head into the meeting.
The rest of us, enrolled nurses, registered nurses, student nurses, new grads, delegates and NZNO staff, unfurl the petition. It’s massive! 8,000 signatures takes a lot of paper to print.
While a few members roll the petition back up, the reporter talks to new grad, Kim Lane. Kim talks about what it’s like to spend years getting a nursing degree and have no job to go to at the end of it. Madness! We’re going to need every nurse we can get in a year or two…
Here’s hoping the Minister sees the sense in what we’re asking for. The nursing workforce must be a priority.
“You do not have the right to vote.”
Can you imagine being told that? That nature did not intend you to have a say in politics and how your country is run. Can you imagine instead being pointed back in the direction of the kitchen stove and silenced?
Well our great, great grandmothers were told they had no right to vote, because they were women, and what they did about it is one of the greatest tales our country has known.
They organised, spoke up, marched and they signed. In fact, 32,000 women signed the 1893 Petition calling for votes for women, and on this day, 11 August, in 1893 that petition was delivered to Parliament.
Sir John Hall wheeled in the hopes and aspirations of every one of those women. The petition was so large it had to enter parliament in a wheel barrow. The petition was then unrolled, each signature representing a voice for equality, down the aisle of our debating chamber until it thumped against the far wall.
Can you imagine?
Over 500 sheets of paper glued together, 270 metres long, 32,000 signatures with one demand: the VOTE
Just six weeks later, on the 19th of September 1893 our great, great grandmothers succeeded… they won New Zealand women the right to vote.
I am so proud of how our foremothers fought for my right to be a voter. So I’m not wasting that right this election.
I am going to vote at my nearest polling booth on the very first day of voting – September the 3rd.
I am going to be heard. I am going to be a New Zealand woman who is first to vote. Will you join me?
PS … If you want to see if you have any 1893 suffragette petitioners in your family search your family name or street address here to see if their voice was wheeled into parliament a hundred and twenty one years ago today.
Check out our Suffrage information document (pdf) for more information about the campaign for women’s suffrage in New Zealand.
NZNO members from the DHB, primary health and aged care sectors took time out from their leadership training yesterday to talk about why they are voters this election.
Here’s what they had to say.
I’m a voter because…
“My voice counts”
“I feel it is important, you can’t moan if you don’t, my vote counts”
“We need a representative parliament and my great grandmother fought for New Zealand women to vote.”
“We have a voice that counts. If I don’t vote for what I value and policies that make sense I won’t get the government I want.”
“I would like the new Government to stop the changes to the employment relations laws.”
“Social justice and workers rights are important.”
“I want to carry on the passion of the suffragettes.”
“We want to be heard we want our values recognised, we want our needs listened to, it’s our right to choose, others in this world aren’t able to elect our rulers but we can, make all generations of kiwis votes / values heard.”
“I want to see change to stop the employment laws progressing, I want to see change, I want my vote to count.”
“We care about what happens in our community.”
“I want my vote to count and because I care.”
“My vote can make all the difference – your vote can too – let’s make change.”
“Workers rights are important.”
“We care about New Zealand.”
Click the image below for more information about the Get out and vote campaign
Along with many NZNO and SFWU members, senior NZNO delegate and activist Grant Brookes attended the second Caring Counts summit in Wellington last week. Here are his thoughts about progress to date and possibilities for the future.
Slow progress and a determination to keep pressing ahead were the two themes which emerged at the Pre-Election Summit of the Caring Counts Coalition, held in Wellington last week.
The Coalition was formed to promote the recommendations for aged care in the Caring Counts report, published by the Human Rights Commission in 2012. The Coalition includes NZNO and the Service & Food Workers Union Ngā Ringa Tota (SFWU), along with government officials, community groups, aged care providers and their industry umbrella group, the Aged Care Association.
I was there to show the support of the NZNO National Delegates Committee for the DHB Sector.
The venue was St Andrew’s Church. Opening the Summit, SFWU aged care spokesperson Alastair Duncan said it was appropriate it was being held in a place associated with miracles. “The miracle is that the Coalition has continued”, he joked.
The Summit was held as Kristine Bartlett’s historic case for Pay Equity in aged care winds its way through the courts, supported by NZNO and SFWU but opposed by Terranova Homes and the Aged Care Association. This case has attracted much media attention, including feature stories on Campbell Live.
Of the ten recommendations in the Caring Counts report, Summit participants heard that progress has been made towards the goal that “all new staff achieve a Level 2 Foundation Skills qualification within six months of starting and that all existing staff achieve this qualification in the next two years”.
The number of staff achieving Level 2 qualifications has doubled since 2012, from 6,000 to 12,000 people a year. The Careerforce Industry Training Organisation has a goal of 30,000 staff enrolled by the end of 2016.
But it was acknowledged this still wouldn’t be enough to maintain the proportion of qualified staff, assuming staff turnover of 20 percent each year. Actual turnover is probably higher.
Progress on other key recommendations around pay and safe staffing, however, is even slower.
No significant movement has been made towards “pay parity between health care assistants working in DHBs and carers working in home support and residential facilities”.
And there is no sign that the voluntary standards, including minimum staffing ratios, will “become compulsory to ensure the protection of both carers and older people”.
Kristine Bartlett captured the essence of the day when she said, “Every day we delay respect for the carers is a day less respect for the men and women in care.”
She also talked about her case, now before the Court of Appeal.
“Earlier this year the Service Workers and the Nurses Union made a video talking about the equal pay case and the need for other women to join the case”, she said.
“Five months later nearly 3000 women have filled out authorities to join. So if we made another video and got everyone together you wouldn’t see me. I’d be one of thousands, which is of course who I have been all along.”
Kristine also shared her own “scorecard”, about how aged care is progressing towards some other Caring Counts goals.
“Leadership. This is the one directed at the Prime Minister. Of all the recommendations, it was probably the easiest to enact and the one that could have sent the strongest message about government intentions.
“Putting the Minister with responsibilities for older persons into the top ten cabinet positions would have been politically smart and easy to do.
“Instead what did we see from the government? Having ensured the Ministry of Health was not in the Employment Court they then sought to intervene at the Court of Appeal – opposing the Employment Court decision.
“Not that I expect them to be listening to either my union or NZNO, but having been told by the Aged Care Association that the sector needed five or even six percent to stand still they funded a miserable one percent.
“Invited to attend the Careerforce conference earlier this year, the Government didn’t turn up and prevented Ministry of Health officials from attending.
“The only real leadership we’ve seen from this government in aged care has been in the wrong direction”.
Kristine concluded by reminding us of the upcoming general election.
After morning tea, participants broke into groups and came up with questions for the politicians who were joining the Summit after lunch.
Labour’s associate health spokesperson, Iain Lees-Galloway, said “the time for debating the merits of the recommendations is past. The time for implementing them is now.”
He said a Labour led government would provide enough funding to cover inflation and population growth, year on year.
Green health spokesperson Kevin Hague pledged to make DHBs pass on all the aged care funding increases to the sector.
“But the industry must also pass through the funding they receive”, he added. In 2006-7, employers took the DHBs to court to avoid paying government-funded wage increases. He said that even in the depth of the Global Financial Crisis, the government had enough money to fully fund health, but chose to spend it instead on tax cuts and Roads of National Significance.
NZ First health spokesperson Barbara Stewart said, “In 2012, the government said they would do something about aged care when they’re back in surplus. They’re in surplus now, and in the latest Budget we saw absolutely nothing for aged care.”
The National Party was also invited, but did not attend.
Summing up the day Dr Jackie Blue, EEO Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission, commended the Caring Counts Coalition partners for their ongoing commitment to aged care.
An abridged version of this article is appearing in the August issue of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand