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You make the difference

Cee Payne is NZNO’s industrial services manager. With decades working as a nurse and for NZNO she has lived and breathed untold campaigns. She talks here about why our recent DHB MECA campaign was so awesome.

On Monday, NZNO members working in DHBs started working under a new and improved multi-employer collective agreement (MECA). The deal was ratified by over 75% of voters. That is a solid achievement!

There were highs and lows in our campaign. There were many months of bargaining, activism, an unacceptable offer, mediation and now this.

The new agreement includes:

  • A 2% pay rise, backdated to 6 July 2015
  • Another 2% pay rise from 4 July 2016
  • A term of 2 years and 5 months, just before the next General Election
  • A bargaining fee that non-members will have to pay to access the benefits we negotiated
  • An increase in PDRP allowances for registered nurses
  • A reconfirmation of DHB’s commitment to implement CCDM
  • A reminder to DHBs of their obligations about discretionary sick leave

We could not have achieved a 2% + 2% pay rise in this environment without your commitment.

We should be proud that we managed to get a deal, despite the underfunding of the sector over the last seven years.

Our achievement will filter through to other parts of the health sector too. We have set a precedent. Many other health workers will reap the benefit of our hard fought settlement.

Perhaps one of our greatest successes is that we secured this deal with all existing conditions intact.

Your understanding of the new environment created by the Employment Relations Act has been important. Thank you for your commitment to collective bargaining.

Your thousands of signatures on hundreds of letters to DHB chief executives, your photos, collages, your ‘purple passion’, and standing strong together is what pushed us over the line.

Thank you for all your messages of support and solidarity. There were times when bargaining was tough, but you really made the difference for our team. I’ve loved seeing NZNO members claim our colour proudly!

Thank you too, to the NZNO staff who organised and rolled out the campaign. You have my sincere appreciation for your effort and hard work.

We celebrated 10 years of our MECA at the start of this year, and I look forward to 10 more.

I am with you in solidarity; standing together and proud to be NZNO!

An NZNO midwife cuts the cake at Kenepuru' Hospital's 10th MECA bash.

An NZNO midwife cuts the cake at Kenepuru’ Hospital’s 10th MECA bash.

Canterbury DHB members standing strong for the bargaining team last year

Canterbury DHB members standing strong for the bargaining team last year

A wall of support for our negotiation team

The negotiation team receives a whole wall of your supportive messages before heading into the first day of bargaining

The negotiation team receives a whole wall of your supportive messages before heading into the first day of bargaining

Members standing strong for bargaining

Members standing strong for bargaining

And after the first offer

And after the first offer

NZNO members paint the country purple on 28 May

NZNO members paint the country purple on 28 May

And get ready to head into a day of action for mediation week at the end of June

And get ready to head into a day of action for mediation week at the end of June

Where we sent a stack of over 500 signed letters to the DHB chief executives. They come back with a better offer...

Where we sent a stack of over 500 signed letters to the DHB chief executives. They come back with a better offer…

And members vote again

And members vote again

I've voted

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A tribute to Putiputi O’Brien

Whaea Putiputi O’Brien, 2006

Te Rūnanga o Aotearoa, NZNO pay tribute to Putiputi O’Brien

Auē! We mourn the passing of our Aunty Putiputi.

Putiputi O’Brien, Ngāti Awa, Te Arawa and Tūhoe graduated from the Waikato Hospital School of Nursing in 1945 and worked in hospitals in Rotorua until she became a public health nurse in 1948.

In 1981 she went to work for Midlands Health as a district community health coordinator and managed the Ngāti Awa ki Rangitaiki health initiative.

Putiputi O’Brien was awarded a Queen’s Service Order for services to nursing and her community in 1987.

In 2002 Te Rūnanga o Aoteroa, NZNO were proud to present the Akenehi Hei award to Whaea O’Brien for her services to Māori and nursing.

Putiputi O’Brien said of her work in rural Te Teko, where the only mode of travel was by horseback, “In those areas you were a jack of all trades, as you were the nurse, the doctor and a midwife”.

In her long and varied career she was a wonderful and passionate role model. She described herself as “a bridge between two worlds; Māori and non-Māori.”

We pay tribute to Putiputi O’Brien and honour her outstanding Māori leadership. Whaea Putiputi has worked tirelessly to improve the health and wellbeing of our people.

As a recipient of our most prestigious award Putiputi was acknowledged and admired by her peers for maintaining the integrity and values of manaakitanga, kaitiakitanga and wairuatanga as she went about fulfilling her vision of building a strong and resilient Maori workforce, in what were challenging times.

There is a Māori proverb that goes “Kua hinga te totara i te wao nui a Tane. The totara has fallen in the forest of Tane”. Although we have lost a mighty totara and wahine toa, we take comfort from her vision that has inspired many – young and old, Māori and non-Māori.

There are many who follow in her footsteps and who will ensure her dream continues, they will grow into the new Māori leaders and Whaea Putiputi O’Brien will remain in our hearts.




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Playing politics with safety statistics

IMG_4303Over the last few days there has been a roaring debate over changes to health and safety law. The law was revised after the Pike River disaster claimed 29 lives. The Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety said “The number of people harmed at work is about enough to fill Eden Park four times. This is simply not good enough.”

The changes were supposed to reduce the unacceptably high rate of preventable workplace injuries and deaths (our rates are six times that of the U.K.) but instead, the Government is actually reducing the requirement for Health and Safety Representatives at workplaces, instead of fixing the law. They are removing this vital safety check from all businesses with under 20 staff, even if the employees request one, except for ‘high-risk’ industries.

Some of the industries the Government has classified as ‘high-risk’;

  • Rabbit breeding
  • Lavender farming
  • ‘Amusement’ like mini-golf and video-game parlours
  • Dog racing
  • Fur dressing.

Some of the industries that the Government has not included as ‘high- risk’

  • Beef, dairy, deer and poultry farming
  • Tree-pruning
  • Work in mental health, addictions, prisons or dementia units

How can this be?! The Government has categorised industries according to figures for workplace deaths and accidents since 2008. But the way industries are grouped seems suspicious – ‘cattle farming’ is separate from ‘other livestock farming’ for example. We know that farmers are just one of the groups who lobbied the Government to water down the bill. And it is not clear at all how the industry categories and statistics have been put together.

The only health industry listed is ‘Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Product Manufacturing’ under ‘Potential for Catastrophic Risk’ (!).

It is absurd that the Government has missed all other kinds of health work when, for example, there is an average of one physical assault on staff every day at Capital and Coast District Health Board. It’s not dissimilar in other DHBs; Waikato DHB reported 85 physical assaults on staff and 132 total assaults in the first four months of this year.

Nursing in challenging environments like prisons requires a very high level of skill and a high degree of personal risk. Any clinical health work can be physically challenging, with intense lifting, turning, and physicality, as outlined in our last blog on nurses’ health and safety.

Finally, not all workplace harm gets accurately recorded as an ‘injury’. High stress and workloads are recognised as common workplace hazards that cause physical and mental harm if not managed properly. Environments like hospices, oncology units and crammed emergency departments all have the potential to pose high risks to staff well-being.

It’s never going to be possible to eliminate every risk to health and safety. Health and safety depends on many different elements that are unique to each workplace. That’s why Health and Safety Representatives are so important for all workplaces.

Bending to the will of powerful lobbying interests will always result in wacky outcomes, but there is a simple answer that makes sense: one health and safety law for all.




My NZNO korowai

Debbie PaperaDebbie Papera is an NZNO staff member who works in the Wellington Regional Office. She is involved in the Māori staff group Te Whakaruruhau and is on Te Ara Reo Māori at Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. Debbie is a supporter of NZNO’s bi-cultural model and walks the talk of tikanga in her work every day.

On Friday and Saturday last week I attended the NZNO and Te Rūnanaga o Aotearoa, NZNO Indigenous Nurses Conference in Tāmaki Makaurau.

It was amazing, truly amazing. How can I explain? For me it was like my korowai hugging me; with each feather symbolising my tipuna and every single person present at the hui. I feel quite emotional about the experience, still. There aren’t many times I can really connect like that with my people.

It’s the best two days I have had in a long time. I was lucky to be able to attend as an NZNO Māori staff member and to catch up with two of my colleagues at the hui too, from Rotorua and Tauranga. Kia ora sisters! Thank you for going on this journey with me.

There were over 300 Māori health workers at the conference and I noticed that many young nurses, students and new grads found the whanaungatanga really beneficial, in terms of building relationships with other nurses and their connection to NZNO and Te Rūnanga.

There were wonderful speakers. A couple of presentations that really moved me were by Dr Misty Wilkie-Condif, and Janine Mohamed and Dr Roianne West.

Dr Misty Wilkie-Condif is an American Indian of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. She talked about how similar American Indian practices are to Maori tikanga, for example both Maori and American Indians place great importance on leaving this earth with our full physical bodies in place.

One way that is encouraged to happen in the American Indian communities where Dr Misty works is led by midwives.

Community midwives go out and all around the villages talking to hapū wahine and new mamas. When pēpe is born part of the midwives job is to make sure the whenua is wrapped and ready to go home with the mamas for burial.

This deep connection between our culture and the American Indian culture is special.

The other presentation that has stayed with me was by our sisters from across the ditch. Janine Mohamed is a Narrunga Kaurna woman from South Australia and Roianne West was born and raised Kalkadoon on her mother’s country in North-West Queensland.

They were representing an organisation that travels out through the outback encouraging young people to become nurses.

They say they need the new generation to be educated as nurses so they can look after the elders who are suffering from diabetes and other diseases relating to their poverty and colonisation.

It’s a kaupapa based on whanau and community.

For me the hui left me with a feeling of positive-ness. As Māori we have had a hard road culturally and because of colonisation. It was wonderful to see so much work happening to fix the structural discriminations and improve the health of my people.

My message to our rūnanga throughout NZNO is: stay true to your tikanga and never forget that your tipuna are always with you and have your back.

To end this article I would like to share something that keynote speaker Moana Jackson said. “If we don’t know who we are, we won’t know where we’ve come from or where we’re going.”

Mauri ora!


Mask up or ship out?!

maskThe issue of vaccinations and the flu vaccination in particular has been on our agenda over the past few months, as it has been for the sector.  In 2015, despite improved uptake of the flu vaccination amongst DHB employees, one DHB (Waikato) has still taken a punitive approach to non vaccinated staff, insisting they wear masks when in direct patient contact or risk suspension and disciplinary procedures.

We felt at this time it might be appropriate to discuss the role of NZNO in this matter. Amongst our membership we have the full spectrum from those passionately in favor of vaccinations, to those equally against.  So should the union even have a view and if so on what basis?

So starting with the right not to be vaccinated – we all have that right.  Being injected against our will is assault, pure and simple.  In addition, when in receipt of healthcare, everyone is covered by the HDC Code of (patient) Rights.  This provides for the right to informed consent and the right to say “no”.  It also provides for the right to be treated with respect.  Given one role of NZNO is the legal protection of member’s rights, enforcing the right not to be vaccinated goes without question.

The issue of vaccination largely comes down to an individual view (I do or do not wish to be vaccinated because I…) or a collective one.  On the latter, there is both a public health good derived from vaccinations and an employment one. The former relates to the reduced spread of disease and therefore harm, especially amongst those in our communities who are most vulnerable, and the latter, lack of staff to treat the sick due to staff themselves being sick. And yes for the DHBs fewer sick days and so less cost, is attractive.

Evidence confirms that whilst not a perfect remedy, vaccination is the best mechanism we have to prevent the spread of disease and the human toll that disease represents. Herd immunity, where vaccination rates are high enough to stem the spread of disease and therefore protect a community, is the goal.

The flu vaccine is not 100% effective. Each year the vaccine must be reconstituted to capture the new strains of flu that emerge.  The flu virus is a nasty little beast that genetically morphs from year to year, hence its success as an organism!  As impressive as this may be, lets not forget, it also kills. Regardless of your view on vaccination, this virus is not the common cold we can all expect to suffer most years.  It is a serious and life threatening virus that has caused millions to die.

When the unions and DHBs (in the forum known as NBAG) collectively came together to investigate the issue what became clear was that a positive, educative and supportive approach to the issue of vaccinations was far more successful than punitive, threatening or negative.  If the overall motivation is community good through protection from disease, having people “on board” is going to more effective than the resistance a negative approach inevitably engenders.  This is not so much about vaccinations per se, but about how we approach the issue.

Acknowledging that employees can’t be required to be vaccinated, what about the DHBs ability to decide what to do with the non vaccinated staff?  In fairness NBAG didn’t even go there (at that time).  We agreed a positive and constructive approach was better and looked (amongst other things) to whether the unions had a role in leadership on this issue, thereby in effect avoiding a negative reaction that some DHBs might have in the face of non vaccination. The answer was yes: better to keep members out of trouble whilst recognising everyone has rights.

NBAG put out guidelines to the DHBs supporting a positive and educative approach, rather than punitive. And the unions agreed to support engagement with members on this issue.

So far so good. Unions avoided the punitive and inevitably adversarial approach DHBs might take against members: DHBs got our support on the vaccination process.

Interestingly, for all the concerns expressed by the DHBs, the uptake of vaccination by management was no different from the rest of the staff, confirming that we are dealing with a wider and more intrinsic issue than superficial review might suggest.

So why did Waikato DHB ignore NBAG advice and fail to engage with us on the issue?

Well Waikato DHB has an already evidenced poor culture when it comes to employee engagement, so probably no surprises there. It is sad, but this DHB continues to have a poor attitude towards their own employees on a number of fronts, including bullying.  And again, regardless of their personal views about vaccination, members have been almost universally concerned at how Waikato DHB is handling this matter.

We have made an application to the Employment Relations Authority to test the DHB’s policy on the basis of a failure to adequately consult prior to implementation. Not only is the issue of ignoring considered national advice on the matter concerning, a whole lot of other issues have arisen that, had proper consultation occurred, would probably have been worked through.  And these issues do need to be resolved, including:

  • What is “direct patient contact”?
  • How effective is mask wearing, including how often we need to change masks to be effective?
  • What of the effect on patient – staff communication through a mask?
  • Distribution of personal health information (vaccination status is health information).
  • What of patient and visitor vaccination status? Visitors can equally spread the virus (remembering the flu is communicable up to 14 days prior to symptoms emerging) so what is the point of just concentrating on staff?
  • If the patient is vaccinated, should the staff member have to wear a mask?
  • If such a public health issue, consistent application of measures are surely required? If that means short staffed areas being left without staff and services interrupted as a result, what is the balance between non vaccinated staff on duty and no service?

We could go on….  Waikato DHB’s approach is also causing resistance amongst staff, and could be self defeating. It is also exacerbating a prevalent negative culture in this DHB which is corrosive, damaging to staff and in need of change all issues of concern to us and our members.

So in summary:  Why are we involved?

  • Because members have rights and we are tasked legally with preserving those rights.
  • Because we also have a role to play in avoiding conflict and progressing matters on an evidence based and reasonable basis.
  • Because Union leadership is evidenced as being instrumental in assisting with positive change on issues such as this (and our own experience supports this).
  • Because at the end of the day our members want what is in the interests of not just themselves but their patients and communities. However as with most things in health, this is a more complex issue than a superficial glance might suggest, and we need to do the best we can to get it right.


Working to stay safe

Fb picYou’ve probably heard a lot in the news recently about the Government’s back-track on improving health and safety laws. After the Pike River tragedy the Government promised to improve health and safety legislation – so that no family would ever need to have the police turn up and tell them that their loved one was killed on the job – but instead they’re doing the opposite.

We speak to a nurse about what health and safety means to her.

Why does Health and Safety mean so much to you as a nurse?

Firstly, for us in hospitals, I know lots of colleagues that have had accidents at work, twisted knees and backs from lifting. There’s an immediate loss of earnings for that person, they’re down to 80 percent of their earnings on ACC, because our DHB doesn’t top them up, unless we use our sick leave allowance. And then someone on ACC isn’t usually replaced with another staff member, so we get short on the wards.

What happens then?

The first thing to go is meal and tea breaks. Nurses are terrible about working through without taking a break and just running between patients. Then, they’re likely to have more accidents because they are rushing, or even make medication errors or errors of judgement. So it starts having an impact on patient care too. And care rationing definitely happens when you have a staff member off injured. That’s when you decide what is going to keep people alive versus the best care you could give someone.

Can you give us an example?

Like, if you have someone who needs a shower, an elderly patient who hasn’t showered, giving that gentleman a shower might take 40 minutes, but you just can’t afford the time. Basic care like that could get missed. It’s so much easier to prevent accidents from happening than dealing with the flow-on effects of when they’ve happened. That’s why having effective Health and Safety strategies is so critical for everyone. Not just in big workplaces too but in all healthcare settings.

You deal with workplace accidents when people come in as patients too, right?

What people have to understand is that Health and Safety matters to nurses not just for our own workplace but because after a workplace death or accident, we have to come in to fix up the mess. It’s incredibly stressful dealing with a workplace death. When you clock off at the end of the day, it goes home with you. Every accident or death like that has ripples that go far afield and affect many people. And they come back to us too.

What you mean by ‘coming back to you?’

Oh, nurses treat the aftermath of those things with grieving friends and family too, in areas like addiction or depression. Or even poverty, some whole families have to deal with the grief and being thrown into sudden poverty. And then they’re back in the health service with stress and diseases that wouldn’t have happened if their family member wasn’t killed or injured. It’s never just one person affected, and it’s health staff as well.

It’s not just deaths, it’s accidents. Not everyone is covered by ACC so sometimes it’s a choice between their health and their income. When you see a bad employer that thinks workers lives don’t matter a lot it’s really disgusting and you know they think it’s going to cost less in dollar terms to just replace a killed or harmed worker than to invest in health. It costs the rest of us though, we pick up the tab.

There was a case recently, a woman who worked for a really well known New Zealand company, one that’s won awards, that you’d think could do better. She’d hurt herself at work. The operation was the only chance to avoid a permanent disability, but it entailed time off.  She told me that she couldn’t take time off because her boss wouldn’t keep the job open, and she wouldn’t get another one.  She had a family to support and felt she had no choice.  I’m pretty sure she would have gone straight back to work, and as a result of that will have an avoidable and permanent disability.

Do you have a message for the Government about the Health and Safety Reform Bill?

‘Yeah but you can’t print it! No, seriously, good health and safety reps can prevent these kinds of accidents when the attitude to them is positive and constructive and management takes them seriously. The Government has to give the message that they’re important and can’t be removed if they’re a ‘nuisance’ to bad management. We have to look at workplaces where they have health and safety committees that work and where there is a good record of improvement. What works is when unions and workers and employers are doing it right and engaging together. We didn’t have to lose all those lives and Pike River and we shouldn’t be losing any more in other industries now. Everyone has a responsibility.