Together we are stronger: some reflections on DHB MECA bargaining.
Lesley Harry is the industrial adviser for the DHB sector and has been leading the NZNO negotiation team in bargaining with the DHBs. Lesley is a longtime activist who works tirelessly for a better working life for NZNO members.
Since the end of last year, NZNO has been in a time of incredible busyness and energy, because of the collective agreement negotiations between 26,000 members and DHBs.
Collective bargaining can be the best of times and (sometimes) the worst of times for unions and union members. It can be disappointing when the employer doesn’t recognise the worth of their workers, or when the discussions get stuck, and it can be hard waiting for news when we don’t know what will happen or when.
On the other hand, it has been totally exciting to see the outpouring of collective creative energy of our members on action days and at worksite meetings. NZNO members are skilled bakers and costumists, artists, photographers, organisers, decorators, activists and speakers, and are also hilarious!
We see the best of you all in your collective actions and displays of strength and solidarity – and it’s slightly overwhelming when we see letters flooding back in to realise just how many of you there are!
This incredible energy has had a solid impact so far. When the first offer was taken out for DHB members to vote on, there was a resounding ‘no’, followed up by direct action.
The DHBs and NZNO were coming from very different positions, standing far apart. Since then our negotiating team has made progress in mediation, buoyed by your support. You can be absolutely sure the DHBs take note of our action. The progress we made would not have happened without it.
It’s also interesting to note that the further through bargaining we have gone the more conversations have opened up about the bigger picture.
Government funding of DHBs affects what services can be provided, and the wellbeing of both staff and patients.
In essence, NZNO and DHBs want the same thing: to protect our precious health services and create sustainable work environments that are safe for everyone.
NZNO members are a very powerful resource in the fight against health sector cuts. DHBs might just be starting to see that they are stronger standing together with us too. This is what the power of our solidarity can achieve.
We are looking forward to hearing more news from the DHBs next week and gathering together again in huge numbers- hopefully at ratification meetings!