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All the way for fairness, justice, value and equal pay

Film-Colour-160Yesterday the Government announced that on 1 April the minimum wage will increase by 50 cents to $14.75 an hour.

A 50 cent increase in the minimum wage is a shame on our whole society. As the Council of Trade Unions says, we are now in a situation where the minimum wage is also the maximum wage for hundreds of thousands of workers.

Workers in aged care, who are underpaid because the work they do is seen as “women’s work”, are being unfairly impacted by this poverty-wage. Caregiver roles are physically and emotionally exhausting with many caregivers going above and beyond what is required.

There is a huge injustice happening here. Aged care workers are bearing the brunt of unfair gender-based pay rates, and a Government minimum wage rate that seems designed to increase poverty and hardship.

Aged care workers are providing care to residents that is worth much, much more than they are getting paid. The residents benefit, the employers benefit and the workers don’t.

Oh, I am sure they are “valued” for what they do. Every time I hear a Government Minister or Rest home owner talking about the aged care workforce they talk about the incredibly important and valuable work aged care workers do. To their shame, it’s a value that is not being reciprocated with an appropriate pay rate.

NZNO and SFWU members have been working for justice for aged care workers and others in low-paid jobs for many years. We have negotiated collective agreement, lobbied successive Governments, and worked together with other groups and organisations who care deeply about fairness and equality, like we do.

A big leap forward in our struggle came at the end of last year when union member Kristine Bartlett won her equal pay court case. The next step is for the employment court to decide what the monetary value of equal pay is. When that happens we expect aged care workers around the country to benefit enormously.

We’re going All the way for equal pay and we’re going to win. This pathetic increase in the minimum wage won’t slow us down – every injustice just strengthens our resolve. Watch this space.

 

 


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A demand to be taken seriously

dilbert-ceo-payNZNO delegate Ady Piesse is an activist for fairness at work and an advocate for collective action. This blog post has previously been published as a comment on Facebook. 

I’m a thinker….I think a lot. Sometimes I’m accused of over thinking, but generally my thinking usually provides me with ideas or helps me problem solve.

So, a couple of weeks ago, I got to thinking – what do I do in my job that is so different from my CEO’s that justifies our salaries?

At the start of every shift I check my equipment so if that cardiac arrest, acute SOB, trauma or the blue floppy baby arrives unannounced, I have the confidence that myself and my colleagues will be able to use that equipment to potentially save a life.

My CEO makes sure his lap top ‘on’ button works.

I monitor numerous pieces of equipment attached to my patients, checking for those spiralling trends so I can intervene early if I need to.

My CEO monitors computer screens that check to make sure my patients are meeting the six hour targets.

I do ‘end-of-bed-o-grammes’ all day every day, with new patients, existing patients, other nurses’ patients, to monitor change, deterioration or improvement.

My CEO looks at spread sheets to see how hard I’m working or how much harder I can be made to work.

I hold in my hand medication that has the potential to kill or to cure.

My CEO holds a pen, an iPhone.

I sit holding a patient’s hand while a doctor tells her and her family her condition is terminal. I hold a child’s hand. I hold the hand of a terrified patient who can’t breathe. I hug people I only met today and know won’t be here tomorrow.

I don’t know if my CEO has ever held a hand or given a stranger a hug.

Every day I take home people’s stories; for some it will be the worst day of their lives. These people have faces and I know some will never leave my memory.

My CEO takes home statistics.

Some days I leave wondering if I have it in me to keep doing what I’m doing – less is not more in my job – but my CEO seems to think so.

I know it’s all more complex than that.

I use my knowledge and observation skills to think ahead and intervene early to avoid a failure to rescue situation, my CEO uses their knowledge and observations to think strategically, for example.

What I’m thinking doesn’t take away from the important role my CEO plays in the day to day running of my organisation, but thinking simply – that’s about the bones of it.

Then some more thinking. I play a damned important role in this organisation too, so how is it I only get paid maybe a quarter of what my CEO earns?

And why should I feel guilty or scared of standing up and asking for more? So I’ve decided I owe nobody an apology for feeling the way I do.

More thought. Stand up and be counted, get as many colleagues on board as I can to speak out and say enough is enough!

I’ve become quite vocal in the past couple of weeks –I’ve decided to stand up for myself. I’ve realised that complaining to colleagues is not going anywhere. We need to be the very visual faces behind our MECA.

I’m guilty like many of having not gone to meetings in the past, been so apathetic to expect Government and the Boards to realise my worth and support me accordingly – I’ve been ridiculously naive! I know there are many colleagues feeling the same way and I’m hoping my ranting will given colleagues the confidence to stand up too and speak out for change!

MECA representatives at these current negotiations can only push the “we’re serious about this…” boat so far – we need to make ourselves visible to Government and our Boards and not just ask, but demand to be taken seriously,  otherwise we have another long three years of the same and more than likely, a lot worse to come.

So, be at those MECA meetings that are coming up and come with ideas! It’s time we got tough!

 

 


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A Living Wage

poster_2Kieran Monaghan is a primary health care nurse and NZNO member who works at Evolve Youth Service. Kieran is an activist for health and social justice. 

NZNO CEO Memo Musa adds an update from NZNO at the end of Kieran’s blog.

I was recently invited to attend a four-day training workshop on the organising strategies of the Living Wage campaign. The following is a report on my experience, and my reflections between the Living Wage, the Declaration of Alma-Ata and NZNO.

What is the Living Wage?

The principle of the Living Wage is simply that the labour a person provides is acknowledged by a wage that provides them with the ability to live with dignity and without poverty. The Living Wage differs from the idea of a minimum or poverty wage, which for any worker is inadequate, and may require a second or third job with accounts of people working 70-80+ hours a week, to meet the basic costs of provisions and living.

The Living Wage campaign in New Zealand is supported by over 200 unions, faith and community groups across the country. Commitments to proactively work on developing grassroots community connections to advocate for a Living Wage are currently being established. Following the hui, we have set up our own local hub in Newtown Wellington.

The current rate for the Living Wage is set at $18.80 an hour and is reviewed and adjusted annually.

Impact of the Living Wage in action.

At the hui we heard stories about the difficulty of life of low wages, including the impacts on education and health.  We also heard the success of nearly 500 workers employed at Wellington City Council, who had their pay rates increased by at least $4 an hour in response to the Living Wage campaign. The WCC parking wardens reported a significant reduction in the work hours needed to earn a sufficient amount to cover the basic costs of living. In addition many now have increased time at home with family. Other workers have reported that moving to the Living Wage has enabled them to dedicate more time on studying towards further qualifications to increase future employment opportunities, so the potential for a better life once again becomes a reality. This is in stark contrast to the workers’ previous experiences where these realities appeared almost impossible to access.

Connections from a nursing perspective

As advocates for health and continued well-being, I wonder if nursing could, and maybe should, stand at the front of this campaign in the spirit of partnership, protection, and participation? Health is much more than Health services. From a Primary Health perspective the ten points defined in the Declaration of Alma-Ata outline that providing the most equitable, affordable, accessible care, in a timely and culturally appropriate manner is critical to the health of both the individual and wider community. These foundational tenets of Primary Health Care are an essential part of a systemic strategy to reducing the widening health disparities we are currently witnessing.

In Aotearoa we are see growing inequalities and disparities in many areas:

  • Minimal low cost housing precipitates overcrowded living conditions, leading to increases in skin infections and rheumatic fever.
  • Healthy food options are significantly more expensive than inadequate options, negatively influencing diabetes and CVD outcomes.
  • Increased prescription charges impact on the ability to buy food and pay bills, the negotiation of budgeting for essentials can lead to less effective treatment for preventable and easily treated conditions.

Many of the illnesses we see in Primary Care, and the more expensive option of Emergency Departments presentations, are conditions of poverty and many are entirely avoidable. The now familiar term of the Working Poor represents many of these people. In February 2013 NZNO published a press release advocating for the Living Wage, stating “Poverty is the root cause of much ill health and inequality in this country. Those who are struggling to survive on incredibly low wages are also the people who face barriers to accessing health care, education and other social services when and where they need them.”.

NZNO is a member organisation of Living Wage Movement Aotearoa NZ. For NZNO to become an accredited  Living Wage employer, ensuring all employees, from the cleaners up, have access to a quality of living free from poverty, would send a strong statement of commitment to the Living Wage kaupapa.

What can we do together?

The implementation of a Living Wage is a strategic intervention that could have significant and long term positive benefits to the health and well being of family and whānau in Aotearoa New Zealand.

A number of primary health organisations have not only joined the Living Wage movement by signing up as member organisations, but have also become accredited Living Wage employers, paying all staff, including their cleaners, the Living Wage.

Here are some things that we can do as a nursing community:

  • Find out if our own workplaces support the Living Wage campaign and introduce them to the idea if it is new to them
  • Encourage health advocacy organisations to sign on as member organisations of the Living Wage movement
  • NZNO to become an accredited Living Wage organisation for all its employees, including contractors, so that it models a healthy standard of quality employment conditions by refusing to pay what amounts to a poverty wage.
  • Find out if there is a Living Wage campaign branch in your local area and offer to get involved and help spread the word.
  • Read more about the Living Wage campaign and share the stories with others.

It is inspiring to see unions such at the SFWU, CTU and EPMU among other accredited Living Wage employers and hopefully the NZNO soon will join with them to make a concrete contribution to reducing inequality in Aotearoa New Zealand.

NZNO update

NZNO is fully committed to the Living Wage campaign and as such has made a financial commitment to be a member of the Living Wage Movement Aotearoa NZ and priority was first to ensure this support for the movement was up front and can be afforded. All staff employed by NZNO are paid above the Living Wage amount currently set at $18.80 per hour.

Contracted staff are not employees, however. So, before we seek Living Wage accredited employer status there are some formal processes and obligations that we have to work through to ensure it is the contracted staff who receive the Living Wage, not the owners of the businesses.

 


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Control vs power

People powerAmendments to the Employment Relations Act are due to come into law on 6 March next year.

Over the last year many of us have been trying to stop the changes. Thousand of nurses, midwives, caregivers and kaimahi hauora made submissions to the Select Committee considering the amendments – and NZNO is really proud that every single one of those submissions were written by members, no tick-box form submissions for us!

Thousands of us protested, attended rallies, participated in the “Give us a break” workplace actions, talked to our families and friends about the issues, used social media and much more. We did it to stand up for decent working rights for nurses, health workers and the rights of all workers in Aotearoa.

The Government didn’t listen.

This legislation gives employers the right to remove tea breaks, withdraw from collective bargaining, trample on new employees rights to equitable working conditions with their colleagues and to refuse to collectively bargain with other employers

But one thing the legislation doesn’t do is give employers power – what it’s giving them is control.

It’s control of the ugliest kind. The kind of control that can legally demand employees work with no breaks or strip loyal staff of paid hours of work and pit employees against one another.

What we have is power! Power is about strength, sharing that strength with others and growing stronger as a result. It’s about standing beside our colleagues, our whānau, and our community so we all have the strength to stand together for what is right and just.

As a fledgling union in the 1990s when the Employment Contracts Act was introduced – our members and other union members lost significant pay and conditions.

Over the last decade and a half we have demonstrated what real power is.

We have worked together to rebuild national and multi-employer collective agreements.

We took up the fight for pay equity through the Fair Pay campaign.

We supported settlements that extended fair pay across the primary health, aged care and private hospital sectors.

We stand with Kristine Bartlett and the Service and Food Workers Union Ngā Ringa Tota in support of pay equity for caregivers.

Our engagement and participation builds real power – our strength in standing together can’t be taken away by the stroke of a pen or the drying ink on legislation.

Governments may make laws that give employers more control; but we hold the power – people power!

 


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My NZNO journey

536955_10153136416250072_1618011563_nDanielle Davies is a new NZNO organiser in Wellington. She writes about her journey from NZNO member to delegate to organiser. 

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!


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Our health, our taonga

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Inspired attendees at the Indigenous Nurses Aotearoa conference 2014

Kerri Nuku is NZNO’s kaiwhakahaere and is of Ngāti Kahungunu descent. As a leader for Māori within NZNO she sees it as her responsibility to ensure that equity is achieved for all Te Rūnanga members.

The other day someone asked me what the highlight of my year has been so far. Usually that kind of question causes me to ponder for a while, but not this year. The absolute highlight of my year is the very first Indigenous Nurses Aotearoa conference, held in Tāmaki Makaurau in August.

The theme for the conference was “Our health, our taonga”, which really resonated with me – as I sense it did with every other attendee. We were stimulated and challenged in our collective responsibility to protect our fundamental right to good health and wellbeing.

It was so energising to be with over 250 indigenous nursing leaders, including nurses, midwives, nursing students, kaimahi hauora and health care assistants. Our combined enthusiasm and commitment to make sure health is a taonga was infectious. It is a privilege of our te ao Māori (Māori worldview) that we see health/hauora as a part of our whakapapa, our whanau, our environment and our culture.

As indigenous nursing professionals, we are committed to reaffirming our rights under the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous people’s article 3, to self determine, and this must underpin any future Māori nursing strategy. We must have faith in ourselves and be courageous in our aspirations for the health of our whānau, hapū and iwi. We must look towards the imagination place to see what could be.

We honour our early Māori nursing pioneers, like Te Akenehi Hei, who halted the death of Māori from introduced diseases. We have nothing to fear as we move into the future – our tipuna made sacrifices and we will too, so that our mokopuna, whānau, hapū and iwi receive the best health care available in Aotearoa.

As indigenous health professionals, we must have the freedom to determine what is best for us.

We will continue to advocate for Māori nursing and workforce issues. We will lobby for change and challenge the barriers that are placed in the way of Māori nursing and workforce success.

Kaimahi hauora:  be brave, take action when you can! Ko te kai ā te rangatira he kōrero!

No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tātou katoa.

 

Click here for more information about Te Rūnanga o Aotearoa, NZNO.

 


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Building confident nurses

bigstock-D-Knob-Confidence-Level-46141444-583x437Teniah Howell is a newly graduated nurse, NZNO member and advocate for young nurses. She currently works as a mental health nurse on the West Coast having spent the previous 18 months in the medical surgical unit at Grey Hospital. This blog is cross-posted from the Nurses Station blog “The Tea Room”

I have had many recent conversations with young nurses from my graduating class, as well as the new graduates who joined our nursing team in January, about the process of building confidence in nursing practice.

It would seem that for many, confidence is something that progressively builds over time. As our skills, knowledge, and experiences increase, we become more certain that the decisions we make are indeed the right ones. We learn to adapt more quickly, and to trust our instincts. For me personally as a new grad, I found that it took several months to really feel that I could trust my instincts and my decisions and stand strong in advocating for my patient’s care and for the decisions that I believed were the right interventions for my patient. I would say that there was probably a significant jump in my confidence at about five months into my nursing career. I felt at that point that I had learned to trust myself a bit more, and had gained valuable skills and experiences along the way.

At our DHB, the new graduates do a department switch at six months. This meant getting “knocked back” a bit with my confidence as I was then in a completely new environment and relying on skills and judgment that I had not yet developed. I found, however, that this time around my confidence grew faster and within a few months I felt much more capable. In talking to others it would seem this is a common theme.

I have found that confidence is something that grows (almost in a step-ladder type of fashion). It builds on the experiences and skills that you gain as you continue your nursing career. I say this to really encourage those young nurses out there who are starting out and are only just beginning to realise your potential within the nursing team. Remember that it is a process. It will come with time. Offer yourself the grace to recognise that it will take time to build the trust in yourself, and for the team in which you work to trust your judgment as well.

It has also been my experience that the team you work with can either build or break down your confidence depending on how they respond to your nursing practice and your suggestions for patient interventions and care. Working with a nurse who is demoralising and cuts you down every moment of the day can really make you feel small and insignificant. It can be extremely hard to build your confidence in this circumstance. On the contrary, when someone encourages you and says that you have made the right decision, it can do wonders for building your confidence and your trust in your own decision making. I would like to challenge you to be type of nurse that lifts others up. Be the one who helps to build other’s confidence by offering words of encouragement to your colleagues. (Especially the young nurses and student nurses whom you might be working alongside).

I am moving into a new role next week, and will once again be starting off in an area where my experience is limited. As I embark on this new journey, I am aware that at first my confidence may “take a hit”, but through my past experience I know that it will quickly build back up again. I am encouraged by this, and do hope that I will be lucky enough to be supported along the way by my colleagues. We can only hope that if we give good out, we will have good returned to us.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”


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8,000 signatures! Petition goes to Parliament.

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!

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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.

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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!

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Marion, Kerri and Memo head into the meeting.

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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.

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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…

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Here’s hoping the Minister sees the sense in what we’re asking for. The nursing workforce must be a priority.


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Why we’re voters

VOTERS sml

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

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