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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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Together we can win; for ourselves and our patients

IMG_1527A message from NZNO industrial adviser for the DHB sector Lesley Harry.

“Meetings are underway at all DHBS to endorse the recommended issues for negotiations as well as the negotiating team and ratification procedure. We know achieving your key issues will not be easy because the DHB’s bargaining parameter is not enough to deliver on your key issues. Please participate in the endorsement meetings and activities and support a decent outcome for all of us.

Together we need to convince the Government to fund DHBs adequately so you are better able to provide quality care for your patients as well as receive a decent pay increase.”

Grant Brookes is an NZNO delegate at Capital and Coast DHB and member of the negotiating team for the 2015 MECA bargaining. He talks about his experience attending several endorsement meetings.

NZNO members working in the DHB Sector are now over half way through a nationwide series of meetings on our Multi-Employer Collective Agreement (MECA).

Next month, we’ll start negotiations for a new MECA. These will not only shape the working lives of more than 25,000 nurses, midwives and other health workers, the negotiations will also influence the quality of care provided by the public health system.

Last week I went to six of the MECA meetings across a couple of DHBs, and not just to vote (only once, of course!) on the issues for negotiation, on the makeup of our negotiating team and on the ratification process we’ll use to accept a settlement.

As a member of the proposed negotiating team, I also attended to get a feel for members’ issues in person, so I could better represent them.

The main issues for negotiation proposed at the meetings are:

  • Wages
  • Safe staffing and healthy workplaces: Care Capacity Demand Management (CCDM)
  • Sick leave
  • Fairness at work
  • Professional development and PDRP/QLP allowances and
  • Outstanding issues from the previous MECA negotiations

Although we will be negotiating with DHB representatives, all of these issues are ultimately influenced by Government.

Towards the end of each of the meetings I attended, the presenters read out the following statement:

Today we have set out the issues that are deeply and widely felt by members as well as highlighted the under-funding of health and nature of recent wage increases in the DHB sector. The financial parameter for 2015 bargaining is almost certainly going to be insufficient to address all of your issues. We anticipate negotiations will not be easy and delivering an acceptable outcome will require all of us working together and likely will need to involve our communities to achieve your goals”.

In other words, we will probably have to convince the Government to increase funding for the DHBs. How successful we are will depend above all on how deeply members believe that our goals are fair and reasonable, and how many people actively participate in our campaign.

Already, many thousands have taken part by filling out and returning the MECA issues survey – an impressive number, especially considering it was the very first campaign activity.

Momentum appears to be building. Signs so far suggest that the current round of MECA meetings have had high turnouts. Discussion of the DHB MECA campaign by delegates at the NZNO AGM last month revealed a strong determination.

Common themes have emerged in discussions at the half dozen meetings I’ve attended. There is a sense that nurses have fallen behind. There also seems to be a feeling that we exercised restraint in MECA bargaining in 2010 and 2012, in response to the Global Financial Crisis and the Christchurch earthquake, and that now it’s time for health to take a higher priority.

If you’re an NZNO member working in a District Health Board and you haven’t been to a meeting yet, get along to one this week. The details of upcoming meetings in your area are at http://www.nzno.org.nz/dhb.

There you can show your support, like the Wellington Hospital members in the photo, for this solidarity statement:

“Together we can win more pay in our pockets, decent professional development opportunities and safe staffing to ensure quality care for our patients”.

 

 


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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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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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New Zealand women, first to vote

2014 suffrage blog picNZNO organiser and our StandUp representative on the Council of Trade Unions Women’s Council, Georgia Choveaux talks about how proud she is that New Zealand women were the first to vote.

“You do not have the right to vote.”

Can you imagine being told that? That nature did not intend you to have a say in politics and how your country is run. Can you imagine instead being pointed back in the direction of the kitchen stove and silenced?

Well our great, great grandmothers were told they had no right to vote, because they were women, and what they did about it is one of the greatest tales our country has known.

They organised, spoke up, marched and they signed. In fact, 32,000 women signed the 1893 Petition calling for votes for women, and on this day, 11 August, in 1893 that petition was delivered to Parliament.

Sir John Hall wheeled in the hopes and aspirations of every one of those women. The petition was so large it had to enter parliament in a wheel barrow. The petition was then unrolled, each signature representing a voice for equality, down the aisle of our debating chamber until it thumped against the far wall.

Can you imagine?

Over 500 sheets of paper glued together, 270 metres long, 32,000 signatures with one demand: the VOTE

Just six weeks later, on the 19th of September 1893 our great, great grandmothers succeeded… they won New Zealand women the right to vote.

I am so proud of how our foremothers fought for my right to be a voter. So I’m not wasting that right this election.

I am going to vote at my nearest polling booth on the very first day of voting – September the 3rd.

I am going to be heard. I am going to be a New Zealand woman who is first to vote.  Will you join me?

 

PS … If you want to see if you have any 1893 suffragette petitioners in your family  search your family name or street address here to see if their voice was wheeled into parliament a hundred and twenty one years ago today.

Check out our Suffrage information document (pdf) for more information about the campaign for women’s suffrage in New Zealand.

 

 

 


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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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Make aged care count

Along with many NZNO and SFWU members, senior NZNO delegate and activist Grant Brookes  attended the second Caring Counts summit in Wellington last week. Here are his thoughts about progress to date and possibilities for the future.

Slow progress and a determination to keep pressing ahead were the two themes which emerged at the Pre-Election Summit of the Caring Counts Coalition, held in Wellington last week.

The Coalition was formed to promote the recommendations for aged care in the Caring Counts report, published by the Human Rights Commission in 2012. The Coalition includes NZNO and the Service & Food Workers Union Ngā Ringa Tota (SFWU), along with government officials, community groups, aged care providers and their industry umbrella group, the Aged Care Association.

I was there to show the support of the NZNO National Delegates Committee for the DHB Sector.

The venue was St Andrew’s Church. Opening the Summit, SFWU aged care spokesperson Alastair Duncan said it was appropriate it was being held in a place associated with miracles. “The miracle is that the Coalition has continued”, he joked.

The Summit was held as Kristine Bartlett’s historic case for Pay Equity in aged care winds its way through the courts, supported by NZNO and SFWU but opposed by Terranova Homes and the Aged Care Association. This case has attracted much media attention, including feature stories on Campbell Live.

Of the ten recommendations in the Caring Counts report, Summit participants heard that progress has been made towards the goal that “all new staff achieve a Level 2 Foundation Skills qualification within six months of starting and that all existing staff achieve this qualification in the next two years”.

The number of staff achieving Level 2 qualifications has doubled since 2012, from 6,000 to 12,000 people a year. The Careerforce Industry Training Organisation has a goal of 30,000 staff enrolled by the end of 2016.

But it was acknowledged this still wouldn’t be enough to maintain the proportion of qualified staff, assuming staff turnover of 20 percent each year. Actual turnover is probably higher.

Progress on other key recommendations around pay and safe staffing, however, is even slower.

No significant movement has been made towards “pay parity between health care assistants working in DHBs and carers working in home support and residential facilities”.

And there is no sign that the voluntary standards, including minimum staffing ratios, will “become compulsory to ensure the protection of both carers and older people”.

Kristine Bartlett captured the essence of the day when she said, “Every day we delay respect for the carers is a day less respect for the men and women in care.”

She also talked about her case, now before the Court of Appeal.

“Earlier this year the Service Workers and the Nurses Union made a video talking about the equal pay case and the need for other women to join the case”, she said.

“Five months later nearly 3000 women have filled out authorities to join. So if we made another video and got everyone together you wouldn’t see me. I’d be one of thousands, which is of course who I have been all along.”

Kristine also shared her own “scorecard”, about how aged care is progressing towards some other Caring Counts goals.

“Leadership. This is the one directed at the Prime Minister. Of all the recommendations, it was probably the easiest to enact and the one that could have sent the strongest message about government intentions.

“Putting the Minister with responsibilities for older persons into the top ten cabinet positions would have been politically smart and easy to do.

“Instead what did we see from the government? Having ensured the Ministry of Health was not in the Employment Court they then sought to intervene at the Court of Appeal – opposing the Employment Court decision.

“Not that I expect them to be listening to either my union or NZNO, but having been told by the Aged Care Association that the sector needed five or even six percent to stand still they funded a miserable one percent.

“Invited to attend the Careerforce conference earlier this year, the Government didn’t turn up and prevented Ministry of Health officials from attending.

“The only real leadership we’ve seen from this government in aged care has been in the wrong direction”.

Kristine concluded by reminding us of the upcoming general election.

After morning tea, participants broke into groups and came up with questions for the politicians who were joining the Summit after lunch.

Labour’s associate health spokesperson, Iain Lees-Galloway, said “the time for debating the merits of the recommendations is past. The time for implementing them is now.”

He said a Labour led government would provide enough funding to cover inflation and population growth, year on year.

Green health spokesperson Kevin Hague pledged to make DHBs pass on all the aged care funding increases to the sector.

“But the industry must also pass through the funding they receive”, he added. In 2006-7, employers took the DHBs to court to avoid paying government-funded wage increases. He said that even in the depth of the Global Financial Crisis, the government had enough money to fully fund health, but chose to spend it instead on tax cuts and Roads of National Significance.

NZ First health spokesperson Barbara Stewart said, “In 2012, the government said they would do something about aged care when they’re back in surplus. They’re in surplus now, and in the latest Budget we saw absolutely nothing for aged care.”

The National Party was also invited, but did not attend.

Summing up the day Dr Jackie Blue, EEO Commissioner at the Human Rights Commission, commended the Caring Counts Coalition partners for their ongoing commitment to aged care.

An abridged version of this article is appearing in the August issue of Kai Tiaki Nursing New Zealand