Anne Daniels, President
NZNO Tōpūtanga Tapuhi Kaitiaki o Aotearoa
As I write the turmoil and peril of the New Zealand health system is evident. Desperate multiple txts going out to nurses every day offering overtime are now the norm. Inequity is rife as evidenced by the very different additional workforce payments offered to doctors that perpetuates the gender discrimination and undervaluing of our profession.
Nursing students are being asked to do patient watches for grocery vouchers with little training to conduct a role requiring skill and experience (putting them at risk) – and often carried out by our amazing health care assistants.
The pressure on NZNO members, no matter where they work in the system, to do more with less (and less and less) is unrelenting. What does this mean for our wellbeing when working in a failing system, our mental health when we feel guilty for giving ourselves a few hours to sleep, eat, and be with our families, instead of going back to help our overwhelmed colleagues? How do we get off this downward spiral?
We are struggling to survive but NOW is the right time to take the appropriate action to correct the situation. Those who accomplish change are willing to engage in the struggle. To survive we must collectively find ways to work together to create the change that needs to happen.
Now is the time to Rise Up! Every member, everywhere must become actively engaged in the Maranga Mai! campaign for change and stand strong until the changes we need are embedded in our workplaces, our work, our contracts and in legislation. We must establish cohesive communication networks so we can work across the public/private/tertiary/primary care divides.
We must also be cognisant of the opportunities Māori models of organising and campaigning offer us all. Maranga Mai! is a national campaign conducted through local events led locally by leaders who are inclusive of NZNO members across all sectors within their local region. Every member needs to step up and act.
One example is occurring in Whangarei Hospital Emergency Department. The nurses decided to work to their contracted FTE only. The expectation that nurses will always step up to fill the roster gaps is now being challenged. These nurses understand that if you continue to do what you always have done nothing will change. They are now supporting each other to put their wellbeing first and nursing shortage issues are being made visible by their action. And their action is being supported by nurses across New Zealand.
Another example is what nurses and health care assistants in Canterbury did. They were not being paid properly or on time as legally required and a local protest was arranged after the employer refused to engage. They organised locally through their networks, social media, radio and tv, to bring the issue to the publics’ attention nationally. The DHB representatives met the NZNO members on the picket line and agreed to work together to resolve the issues.
Where there is anger born of injustice, discrimination and racism; agitation and action by each one of us working together will bring hope. The realisation of beneficial change will only come if we harness our anger and make it work for us. Maranga Mai!