I knew from a young age that healthcare was a precious taonga. My parents impressed on me that each check up with the doctor, each visit to the dentist- was a significant benefit that I was able to access because of the union which my Dad was a member. My Dad was one of the thousands of construction workers who migrated from New York to California during the construction booms of the 1970s. As construction work is a physically demanding job which regularly places workers in vulnerable situations, my Dad’s union bargained for comprehensive benefit packages for employees and their families; benefits which, outrageously, Americans do not have as basic entitlements. The battles the union fought for ensured that his overtime was paid, that his hours of rest were protected and that his family’s medical and dental costs were covered. Growing up with this exposure, I became aware of the link between collective action and collective good.
My own union journey began shortly after commencing work as a Staff Nurse at Wellington Hospital. The previous ward delegate was planning an OE and had taken notice in my interest in all things union! A handover and election quickly followed and, before I knew it, I was a ward delegate.
I believe that becoming a NZNO delegate made me a better nurse. Not only was I responsible for my own nursing practice with my patients, but also responsible to my fellow members to resolve workplace issues, to educate on rights and responsibilities under the MECA and to promote collective participation with NZNO campaigns. It was not long after I took up the role of delegate that I noticed an increase in my colleagues approaching me about employment matters, from sick leave conditions to roster patterns, from payroll matters to NZNO campaigns. Being able to resolve matters at the delegate level, and increase members’ knowledge of their rights and collective power was hugely rewarding.
This week I commenced my new role as NZNO Organiser for the Wellington region. My role has shifted my professional duties from caring for patients at the bedside to caring for nurses. I have a great passion for nursing and believe that together we can achieve great outcomes. As ever, I feel proud to be a part of NZNO: Freed to care, proud to nurse!