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Together we are stronger

DHB header for blog

 

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!

 


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The Budget and the MECA

scalpel12This past week has been a busy one. Thursday 21 May was Budget Day. It’s a day we are always on the edge of our seats, hoping for a plan for health that delivers for our members and all New Zealanders.

And the day after that we held our final meetings about the offer from DHBs for our multi-employer collective agreement. The results of those meetings did not surprise us but what we didn’t expect was the extent to which NZNO members working in DHBs rejected the DHBs’ offer. Over 82 per cent voted no.

This years’ Budget does not provide enough funding to meet the health needs of New Zealanders. In order to meet the costs of rising prices, an increasing population, an ageing population, an ageing health workforce, long overdue decent wage increases, new services etc etc, we estimate the funding allocated is at least $260 million short.

District Health Boards (DHBs) are short-changed by at least $121 million. And we know almost all of them are already struggling to manage massive deficits, meaningless health targets and the continuing push from government to “centralise” services at any cost.

How are DHBs going to deal with the likely flow-on impacts on safe staffing, workplaces that are healthy for staff and patients and quality care?

Nurses, midwives, caregivers and other health care workers are telling us they are already stretched to the limit. Some are having to sacrifice tea and lunch breaks and are working unpaid overtime just to keep up with the care they need to give to ensure needs of patients are met. Support for training and development is decreasing. Stress levels are rising and morale is low.

And it’s not only DHBs that are bearing the brunt of reduced spending. Efforts to reduce poverty related illness are not being tackled in a “joined-up” way.

Health workforce planning is proceeding at a snail’s pace. New graduate nurses are still looking for jobs that aren’t there. Older nurses are still being pressured to work night shifts.

Health workers need a fair deal to cope with the increasing demands that are being placed on them.

And this means we need to stand together to make progress in our bargaining with the DHBs for our multi-employer collective agreement.

NZNO members working in DHBs don’t feel valued. They instructed the negotiating team to retain what’s already in the MECA, secure a decent pay increase, improve access and support for professional development and advance safe staffing and healthy workplaces.

The DHBs’ offer clearly didn’t cut it. They need to do better for their largest group of workers.

We’re heading back into bargaining on Thursday with a clear mandate: the offer must be improved. Nurses can no longer continue to take up the slack for a sick health system.

We can’t do all the work here! DHBs need to take some responsibility for advocating for the funding that provides appropriately for every member of staff and every patient. New Zealanders won’t settle for anything less.


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MECA reflection

IMG_0313Jemma Irvine is an NZNO delegate at Wellington Hospital. She reflects on what the DHB MECA means to her.

I became an NZNO delegate last year and I attended the MECA training day in February 2015.

Can I just say, I am soooooo grateful for all the nurses who have fought hard for their rights up until now.

Some of the other nurses in the group were sharing their stories of what it has been like nursing in New Zealand over the past 20+ years. It sounds like they have had some pretty big ups and downs. Some nurses were talking about when their hospital board decided to dissolve all of their jobs and make them reapply for their positions. Some nurses weren’t rehired. Some were hired back as team leaders instead of Charge Nurse Managers and therefore on a lower wage. I couldn’t quite believe that this could happen!

Budget cuts affect everyone, but nurses often carry a higher portion of the impact. They work hard to try to do the same amount of work with less staff and fewer resources – always thinking of their patients before themselves. Over time this takes its toll. It’s not sustainable to always be working beyond your means. Something has got to give.

At one point there became the need to strike. These nurses talked about what it was like to strike. They shared the emotional impact, the feelings of guilt when standing on the picket line knowing their patients were still inside. It was not an action taken lightly. All of them said it was hard and they would not have done it if they felt that they could have kept going the way things were. I admired them so much for making a stand to improve their working conditions and fight to be able to give patient’s the care they deserve.

I know strikes are difficult for everyone, but I really appreciate being able to benefit from the hard work these brave people have put in to improve conditions for all of us; nurses, midwives, health care assistants and, most of all, patients.

Hearing some of these powerful stories made me so proud to be a nurse and I feel very privileged to start nursing in this current work environment. I am so grateful for our DHB MECA that means our conditions are able to be protected and we are treated (for the most part) fairly.

I know we are going to have to stand up to keep our working conditions in the near future as the DHB and NZNO try to come to and agreement about our MECA. I want to take this opportunity to thank the ‘oldies’ (meant in the most respectful way possible!) who have paved a lot of the way for us.

Thanks so much!

Love from a grateful, inspired young nurse.


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What does the DHB MECA mean to me?

20150310_154113Kimberley McAuley is an NZNO delegate at Waikato Hospital. She was asked to speak at the event held there yesterday celebrating 10 years of the DHB MECA. This is her speech. We think it’s fantastic!

To be truly honest with each of you present today, when I was first asked to present a small talk on what the MECA means to me, at the birthday party celebration of the 10th anniversary of the MECA, I was a little taken back because: a) public speaking is not one of my strongest points, and b) I was actually going to have to really contemplate and reflect on this question.

Firstly, before I let you in on what ‘the MECA means to me’, I will introduce myself to you all. My name is Kimberley McAuley. I am a registered nurse, I work in the main operating theatres for Waikato District Health Board and I am an NZNO delegate for my workplace and have been for the past 6 months.  I have been a registered nurse for only three years, so less time than the MECA itself has actually existed.

To be quite frank, for my first two years of practice as a registered nurse, or at least the first year anyway, I had no idea what the MECA was about, let alone what it meant it me. I’m not actually sure if I knew the MECA even existed. However, over the past year I have really come to develop a deeper understanding and appreciation surrounding the MECA and the value that the MECA has not only for nurses, but additionally for our HCA and midwife colleagues as well.

For me personally, the major underpinning of the DHB MECA is the element of unity. The MECA is what holds us all, as nurses, together. The MECA works to ensure that we, as nurses, are ALL looked after.  The MECA ensures that we have decent pay, and decent conditions of work. The MECA ensures that we, and all nurses in DHBs throughout New Zealand, work under the same terms and conditions.

Personally, I can vouch and admit that at times, I don’t feel that I get the salary that I deserve when I think about the hard work that I invest into my role as a theatre nurse; the extra hours that I do, and the heart, soul, dedication and passion that I put into my tasks and responsibilities on an everyday basis. I can additionally vouch for the fact that often, and very often of late, feel that I do not have adequate conditions in my workplace. However, without this unifying MECA that we all belong to, I believe all of our workplaces and related factors to our workplaces would be a lot worse of without our MECA. This multi-employer collective agreement, in my eyes is the glue that sticks us all together, and what unifies us all.

So, to conclude, I would just like to say a big happy birthday to our MECA and long may it prevail and be there for us!

 


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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”.